Metformin, the first-line medication for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, can reduce the risk of late miscarriage and preterm births for women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a health problem that affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age. Women with PCOS have a hormonal imbalance and metabolism problems that may affect their overall health and appearance. The symptoms are irregular menstrual periods, increased levels of male sex hormones and small ovarian blisters. In addition, many women with PCOS are overweight. Women with PCOS also have an increased incidence of impaired fertility, miscarriages, gestational diabetes, premature births and pre-eclampsia.
Professor Vanky leads the research group "Women's Health - PCOS" at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)'s Department of Clinical and Molecular Medicine. According to him, "in pregnant women with PCOS, treatment with metformin from the end of the first trimester may reduce the risk of late miscarriages and preterm births."
An article in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal presents the results of nearly two decades of research from NTNU and St. Olavs hospital. Consultant Tone S. Løvvik is the first author, and the study is part of her doctoral work and Professor Sven M. Carlsen is co-supervisor.
However, the research group found no reduction of gestational diabetes among this group of women with PCOS. From 2000 to 2017, the research group carried out three controlled studies of nearly 800 pregnant women with PCOS. The studies were conducted at 15 hospitals in Norway, 4 hospitals in Sweden and one in Iceland. Half of the women were given metformin (2000 milligrams daily) from first trimester to delivery. The rest of the women were given a placebo.
The researchers also found that the women who received metformin gained less weight during pregnancy. A higher level of male sex hormones is associated with several of the symptoms of PCOS. The causes of the condition are not known, but may be related to lifestyle, inheritance and intrauterine fetal life. The group found no effect on pre-eclampsia, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure or to what extent newborns of women with PCOS needed intensive care.
"Perhaps the most remarkable finding was that metformin had no effect whatsoever on either the incidence or severity of gestational diabetes," Vanky notes.
The three studies that form the basis of the conclusion were carried out according to Good Clinical Practice principles and will definitely have an impact on the follow-up and treatment of pregnant women with PCOS and likely also of other pregnant women.