Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition that causes fertility problems mainly through failure of ovulation. Other features of PCOS include menstrual irregularity, hirsutism, acne, obesity, and psychological issues. It affects about 10-15% of women in the UK.

The underlying causes of PCOS include genetic and lifestyle factors which make the condition difficult to treat. Lifestyle modification focussed on dietary changes to reduce carbohydrate intake, together with regular exercises, should form the basis of treatment. In practice however, many affected women find dietary changes and weight reduction difficult to achieve and treatment with drugs is often required. Drug based therapies are only effective in 60% of patients and are sometimes associated with side-effects. Thus, many women choose to try alternative therapies especially acupuncture.

Research studies are being carried out on the efficacy or otherwise of acupuncture in the treatment of PCOS. Available studies so far are small in size and many are not properly conducted randomised controlled trials. However, there is a strong indication from available studies that acupuncture shows efficacy in the treatment of PCOS, both symptom control and fertility treatment. Acupuncture seems to have a small positive effect in achieving pregnancy and live birth.

It is now known that acupuncture can affect beta-endorphin production which in turn affect gonadotrophin-releasing hormone secretion and regulate the menstrual cycle and stimulate ovulation. Acupuncture is a safe treatment with minimal side-effects.
J. Adeghe MBBS, PhD, FRCOG.
Consultant – Gynaecology & Reproductive Medicine