The use of berberine for women with polycystic ovary syndrome undergoing IVF treatment

Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2014 Mar;80(3):425-31. doi: 10.1111/cen.12294. Epub 2013 Aug 9.


Objective: Previous studies have indicated that berberine is an effective insulin sensitizer with comparable activity to metformin (Diabetes 2006, 55, 2256). Reduced insulin sensitivity is reportedly a factor adversely affecting the outcome of IVF in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) (Human Reproduction 2006, 21, 1416). Our objective was to evaluate the clinical, metabolic and endocrine effects of berberine vs metformin in PCOS women scheduled for IVF treatment and to explore the potential benefits to the IVF process.

Design: We performed a prospective study in 150 infertile women with PCOS undergoing IVF treatment. Patients were randomized to receive berberine, metformin or placebo tablets for 3 months before ovarian stimulation.

Measurements: The clinical, endocrine, metabolic parameters and the outcome of IVF.

Results: Compared with placebo, greater reductions in total testosterone, free androgen index, fasting glucose, fasting insulin and HOMA-IR, and increases in SHBG, were observed in the berberine and metformin groups. Three months of treatment with berberine or metformin before the IVF cycle increased the pregnancy rate and reduced the incidence of severe ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Furthermore, treatment with berberine, in comparison with metformin, was associated with decreases in BMI, lipid parameters and total FSH requirement, and an increase in live birth rate with fewer gastrointestinal adverse events.

Conclusions: Berberine and metformin treatments prior to IVF improved the pregnancy outcome by normalizing the clinical, endocrine and metabolic parameters in PCOS women. Berberine has a more pronounced therapeutic effect and achieved more live births with fewer side effects than metformin.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Berberine / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Fertilization in Vitro*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Infertility, Female / complications
  • Infertility, Female / epidemiology
  • Infertility, Female / therapy*
  • Metformin / therapeutic use
  • Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Ovulation Induction / methods
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / complications
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / therapy*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Rate
  • Young Adult


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Berberine
  • Metformin