How It Works
Metformin decreases the level of androgens produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands. It also helps the body use insulin and may reduce the risk of diabetes.
Metformin lowers blood sugar levels by:
Decreasing the amount of sugar produced by the liver.
Increasing the amount of sugar absorbed by muscle cells and decreasing the body's resistance to insulin (insulin resistance).
When blood sugar is lower, less insulin is needed, so the body makes less insulin. And when insulin is lower, the body produces a lower level of androgens.
Why It Is Used
Metformin is a diabetes medicine sometimes used for lowering insulin and blood sugar levels in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This helps regulate menstrual cycles, start ovulation, and lower the risk of miscarriage in women with PCOS. Long-term use also lowers diabetes and heart disease risk related to high insulin levels.2
Does not cause the pancreas to make more insulin. When taken alone, it will not cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
Lowers fat (lipid and triglyceride) levels in the blood.
Reduces abnormal clotting factors and markers of inflammation that can lead to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).
Decreases the level of androgens.
Metformin can be used to treat women who have PCOS to reduce insulin levels and promote normal ovarian function. Metformin is best used in addition to eating a healthy diet, losing weight, and exercising regularly.
How Well It Works
Metformin lowers insulin, androgen, and cholesterol levels. It also improves metabolism in women who are insulin-resistant.
Metformin may be useful in restoring regular menstrual cycles and starting ovulation in about 45% of women with PCOS.3
Clomiphene (Clomid) and metformin may be more effective when they are taken together. But more research is needed to confirm if this is true.
Some studies show that taking metformin has helped with in vitro fertilization (IVF). But other research did not support this.
Metformin may lower the risk of miscarriage or gestational diabetes in women with PCOS, but this has not yet been confirmed by research. Metformin is probably safe to take while you are pregnant. But because metformin is only FDA-approved for the treatment of diabetes, you should talk with your doctor about the use of this medicine for reducing your risk for miscarriage or treating PCOS symptoms.
The most common side effects of metformin are:
Loss of appetite.
Increased abdominal gas.
A metallic taste.
These side effects occur 20% to 30% of the time. Side effects usually decrease over time. The dosage of metformin is usually increased gradually to prevent these possible side effects.4
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