Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a hormonal disorder in which the ovaries produce too many male hormones. These hormones can disrupt a woman's normal ovulation cycles and thereby cause infertility. Other conditions associated with PCOS include excessive hair growth, acne, weight gain and cysts in the ovaries, as well as increased risk of metabolic disorder, Type 2 diabetes and endometrial cancer. Although some research indicates that the B vitamin folic acid may help reduce certain complications of PCOS, talk to your doctor before taking dietary supplements for PCOS.
Folic Acid and Fertility
Preliminary evidence suggests that folic acid supplementation may help treat ovulatory infertility -- one of the major complications of PCOS. According to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in 2006, women who took a multivitamin at least six times a week reduced their ovulatory infertility by 40 percent in eight years; researchers concluded that the multivitamin ingredient most directly linked to the women's improved fertility was folic acid. According to Cleveland Clinic, while fertility issues should be discussed with a doctor, women with PCOS may be able to improve their chances of getting pregnant by taking 400 micrograms of folic acid per day.
Folic Acid and Homocysteine
PCOS has been associated with high blood levels of a substance called homocysteine. Elevated homocysteine levels have been linked to heart disease, stroke and endocrine disorders like hyperinsulinemia. According to MedlinePlus, folic acid supplements are "likely effective" for the treatment of high homocysteine levels. Dosages of folic acid that have helped treat high homocysteine levels in clinical research range from 500 micrograms to 1 milligram per day. You shouldn't take more than 400 micrograms per day of folic acid unless directed by your doctor. There is some concern that high-dose folic acid supplementation exceeding 800 micrograms per day may increase risk of heart attack and certain cancers, MedlinePlus notes.
Folic Acid During Pregnancy
Besides possibly reducing infertility associated with PCOS, folic acid may also improve pregnancy outcomes with PCOS. As with all pregnant women, pregnant women with PCOS need to get sufficient folic acid to prevent neural tube defects. Both low folic acid levels and PCOS are linked to miscarriage; pregnant women with PCOS may thus help reduce their risk of miscarrying by taking folic acid. If you are able to get pregnant with PCOS, talk to your doctor to find out what prenatal supplements to take and any other special considerations regarding PCOS and your pregnancy.
Other PCOS Treatments
Other than folic acid, certain prescription treatments and lifestyle measures may also treat symptoms of PCOS and help prevent PCOS complications. According to womenshealth.gov, the diabetes medication metformin can help treat obesity, abnormal hair growth and ovulation problems in women with PCOS, and it may possibly reduce pregnancy complications with PCOS. Other medications used to reduce PCOS symptoms include fertility medications, anti-androgen medications and -- for women who don't want to get pregnant -- birth control pills. Eating right, exercising and not smoking can also help you avoid certain PCOS complications, while limiting intake of caffeine and alcohol may increase your odds of conceiving and decrease your risk of miscarriage with PCOS.