You may have heard many people talking about a specific drug that can lead to weight loss, but what is it, and why all the hype? Oh, Oh, Oh, Ozempic! Semaglutide, or the brand name Ozempic, has gained attention for its potential in managing PCOS symptoms, especially related to weight loss and blood sugar control.
In this article, we’ll explore the connection between PCOS, insulin resistance, and obesity. So, let’s dive into the potential benefits and considerations of using Ozempic for PCOS management.
What Is PCOS?
Investigating Ozempic For PCOS
To understand Ozempic for PCOS, we need to understand how PCOS works. Polycystic ovarian syndrome causes the ovaries to overproduce androgens (male hormones) like testosterone. It can also cause small cysts, or follicles, on the ovaries from immature eggs that don’t release during ovulation.
Importantly, the hormonal imbalances of PCOS also include insulin resistance. Insulin resistance means the body’s cells don’t effectively respond to insulin, leading to elevated blood sugar levels, among other things. All of these imbalances of the endocrine (hormonal) system contribute to each other in a vicious cycle.
Symptoms of PCOS include irregular, heavy, or absent periods and weight gain, especially in the abdomen. PCOS also makes it difficult to lose weight even with the best efforts, exercise, and diet.
Additionally, many women experience facial hair growth, hair loss, fatigue, mood swings, depression, anxiety, and sexual dysfunction. The complexity of PCOS makes it difficult to target and treat the root causes of these symptoms.
What Is Ozempic?
Ozempic is a brand name for semaglutide, which belongs to a class of medications known as GLP-1 receptor agonists. Other similar medications include Wegovy (semaglutide) and Mounjaro (tirzepatide).
These drugs were originally designed to treat type 2 diabetes by enhancing the body’s natural production of insulin and regulating blood sugar. However, their potential applications extend beyond diabetes management.
It helps your pancreas produce more insulin to help lower blood sugar, and it can slow digestion. This can lead you to feel fuller after a meal. It is also known to help reduce weight.
Unfortunately, many doctors have prescribed it as a weight loss or PCOS drug, limiting its availability for diabetic patients who rely on it. The FDA has put it on its drug shortages list as of May 2023.
Is Ozempic Good for PCOS?
Ozempic Injection / Adobe Stock
Ozempic is still primarily a type 2 diabetes drug. It has not yet been approved for PCOS or weight loss. However, many doctors will prescribe it to patients with insulin resistance. Let’s look at some ways it can help reduce symptoms of PCOS.
Weight Loss: Ozempic has shown promise in promoting weight loss. Many individuals with PCOS struggle with weight management. Lowering BMI can help alleviate some PCOS symptoms, such as irregular periods, fertility issues, and high androgens.
A 2017 study examined the effects of GLP-1 agonists, or semaglutide, for PCOS. “Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), a gut hormone secreted after a meal, enhances glucose-stimulated insulin secretion and additionally suppresses appetite and gastric motility.”
This means those taking Ozempic may have fewer cravings and more feelings of fullness. Thus, individuals may eat less, which can also benefit weight loss.
Blood Sugar Control: Women with PCOS and insulin resistance have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Ozempic helps regulate blood sugar levels by stimulating the production of insulin. By addressing insulin resistance, Ozempic may enhance insulin sensitivity, which is crucial in managing PCOS-related symptoms.
Let’s examine some recent research on the use of this drug for PCOS.
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Recent Research on Ozempic for PCOS
A study from 2023 examined 27 obese PCOS patients who had not achieved results from lifestyle modification programs. They were given a 0.5-milligram semaglutide injection once a week for three months.
At the end of the study, almost 80% of the studied patients obtained at least a 5% decrease in their body weight. The rest who had less than a 5% decrease in weight had more severe obesity and were considered “non-responsive to semaglutide, at least at the used doses.”
However, despite weight loss results, all patients had improved insulin resistance and experienced few side effects. And 80% also had normalized blood sugar levels.
The group who experienced more weight loss continued the treatment for three more months. Though weight loss slowed, at the end of the six-month study, participants had an average weight loss of 11.5 kilograms (25 pounds). In addition to these results, 80% also had normal menstrual cycles.
While this study shows promise, it is quite limited by the small number of participants and the length of the study. Additionally, it shows the variability of the benefits of Ozempic among different individuals with PCOS. Not everyone will have the same results.
Side Effects of Using Ozempic for PCOS
Semaglutide injections, like most medications, can have side effects. Some people may experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea when they first start taking Ozempic. These side effects often improve as your body gets used to the medication.
Some individuals report abdominal discomfort or pain. Ozempic may affect your appetite, which can lead to reduced food intake and potentially weight loss.
While it primarily reduces high blood sugar, it can occasionally lead to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) if combined with other diabetes medications. Additionally, some people may experience redness, itching, or swelling at the injection site.
More rarely, serious side effects may occur, such as pancreatitis, vision changes, and kidney and gallbladder problems. As of September 2023, the FDA updated label warnings of Ozempic. It includes warnings of hepatobiliary disease, a group of conditions affecting the bile duct, pancreas, and gallbladder.
It also warns against anaphylaxis, rash, hives, and angioedema — the swelling of the deeper layers of the skin caused by a build-up of fluid. However, it stated, “Because these reactions are reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequency or establish a causal relationship to drug exposure.”
Not everyone will experience these side effects. Some individuals may have a positive experience with Ozempic, achieving better blood sugar control and even weight loss. However, others may have worse side effects or see no results using it.
Discuss the potential dangers and benefits of Ozempic with your healthcare provider before starting the medication. They can help you make an informed decision and monitor your progress to ensure the medication is right for you.
Can You Take Ozempic When Pregnant?
Doctors generally consider semaglutide or Ozempic unsafe during pregnancy. In October 2022, the FDA updated the risk summary of the use of Ozempic in pregnancy. Despite limited data, some animal studies have resulted in birth defects, abnormal growth, and miscarriage. It is best to stop taking Ozempic two months before you plan to become pregnant.
However, uncontrolled diabetes and gestational diabetes can also lead to pregnancy risks such as preeclampsia and preterm delivery. Always consult with your healthcare provider if you have concerns.
Can You Take Ozempic While Pregnant?
Considerations of Ozempic for PCOS
Off-Label Use: It’s important to note that the FDA does not specifically approve Ozempic for treating PCOS. Some healthcare providers may prescribe it off-label, meaning for a use not approved by the FDA, based on their clinical judgment and the available evidence.
In most cases, they may prescribe it for insulin resistance or weight loss in PCOS patients. However, the FDA approved a brand named semaglutide injection, Wegovy, for weight loss in obese patients.
Limited Long-Term Data: While Ozempic has shown short-term benefits, its long-term effects on individuals with PCOS are still being studied. We need more research to fully understand its safety and effectiveness over extended periods.
Individual Variability: The response to Ozempic can vary among individuals. Some may experience substantial weight loss and improved blood sugar control, while others may have a less pronounced response or none at all. This depends on the dosage and the individual.
Comprehensive Approach: You should consider Ozempic as part of a holistic PCOS management plan. Lifestyle changes, especially diet and exercise, remain essential components of PCOS care. Without these lifestyle changes, you have a greater likelihood of gaining weight back once you stop.
Does Ozempic Cause Cancer?
No human studies have detected whether Ozempic can cause cancer. However, it did cause thyroid tumors and cancer in rodent studies. Thus, doctors typically recommend avoiding Ozempic if you have a family history of thyroid cancer.
Ozempic has been on the market since 2017, when the FDA approved it for type 2 diabetes treatment. Recently, in March 2022, the FDA approved a higher 2-milligram dose of Ozempic. During this time, researchers have closely studied the drug and have not yet found whether it can cause cancer in humans.
Can You Keep the Weight Off After Stopping Ozempic?
Post-Ozempic Weight Gain
Ozempic is known to assist with weight loss, primarily by reducing appetite and promoting a feeling of fullness. Whether you can keep the weight off after stopping Ozempic depends on various factors, including your overall lifestyle, dietary habits, physical activity, and the underlying causes of your weight gain.
One study found that participants regained two-thirds of their weight a year after stopping treatment. Maintaining weight loss involves adopting long-term, sustainable lifestyle changes, such as a balanced diet and regular exercise.
Working with a healthcare provider or nutritionist can provide a personalized plan for maintaining your weight once you transition off Ozempic. It’s essential to have a strategy in place to prevent weight regain and support your overall health and well-being.
Is Taking Ozempic an Effective Treatment for PCOS?
It is important to remember that Ozempic doesn’t have approval for treating PCOS, though doctors may prescribe it for such.
Like any medication, Ozempic comes with many side effects and risks. While the benefits may outweigh common symptoms, such as nausea and diarrhea, it won’t work for everyone.
A doctor may recommend a semaglutide injection like Ozempic for treating aspects of PCOS, such as insulin resistance and obesity. However, the research on the efficacy and safety of the drug for PCOS is limited.
Additionally, after stopping the injections, many individuals regain all the weight they had lost. You need to take a rounded and holistic approach to treatment. Lifestyle modifications such as proper diet and exercise will improve results.
You can look at the experiences of some women who took Ozempic for PCOS to see how it worked for them. And you’ll see they had wildly varied experiences and reactions to it.
Ask your doctor about this PCOS treatment option for managing symptoms of insulin resistance and high blood sugar.