Metformin (Glucophage) for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
metformin Glucophage

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.

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.1

How Well It Works

Metformin lowers insulin, androgen, and cholesterol levels. It also improves metabolism in women who are insulin-resistant.

Metformin may help start ovulation in women with PCOS who have not responded to treatment with clomiphene. Some doctors may recommend taking metformin in addition to clomiphene to start ovulation.2

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Hives.
  • Symptoms of lactic acidosis, such as rapid breathing, excessive sweating, cool and clammy skin, sweet-smelling breath, belly pain, nausea or vomiting, and/or confusion.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Temporary nausea and/or diarrhea.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Increased abdominal (belly) gas.
  • A metallic taste.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Blood levels of vitamin B12 can decrease in women who take this medicine, but the lower level usually does not cause health problems. Doctors do recommend that women who take metformin also take a daily multiple-vitamin supplement.

You may need to stop taking metformin temporarily before major surgery or other medical procedures, such as X-rays that use contrast dyes. Talk to your doctor about this before your surgery or procedure.

The effect of metformin may be increased if you also take cimetidine (Tagamet). Before you take metformin, talk with your doctor about any other medicines you are taking.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Ehrmann DA (2005). Polycystic ovary syndrome. New England Journal of Medicine, 352(12): 1223–1236.
  2. Fritz MA, Speroff L (2011). Chronic anovulation and the polycystic ovary syndrome. Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility, 8th ed., pp. 495–531. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised May 14, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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