Birth Control For Endometriosis

Women who suffer from mild to moderate endometriosis symptoms (such as period pain and abdominal inflammation and swelling) may well find that some fairly simple methods of hormone-based birth control will make them feel a lot better. Given that somewhere between 30 and 40% of female infertility cases are caused by endometriosis, many women suffering from the condition are more interested in boosting their fertility than suppressing it. It's therefore obvious that this form of symptom management is not suitable for everyone. However, if you're an endometriosis patient and your main treatment concern is to relieve your symptoms, using hormonal birth control could be the answer.

Hormone Hell

Endometriosis is a hormone-sensitive reproductive disorder. The endometrial tissue that grows outside the uterus (i.e. in places where it's not supposed to be) "feeds" on the same hormones that regulate a woman's menstrual cycle. Two of these hormones are estrogen and progesterone.

In the course of one cycle, these hormones will promote the growth of the lining of the uterus (the endometrial tissue) in anticipation of ovulation. The endometrial tissue inside the uterus is essential for implantation to occur (if the egg released during ovulation is fertilized by a sperm cell). If no egg is fertilized, the uterus sheds the lining and menstruation begins. The problem with the endometrial tissue growing outside the uterus is that it's subject to the same hormone-powered growth process. So, throughout the month it thickens, but when menstruation begins, unlike the tissue in the uterus, the endometriosis tissue bleeds but has no way of escaping the body. This causes cramping, pain and swelling.

The Pill

Although the pill helps many women to live with their endometriosis, it isn't an officially licensed treatment for this condition. It is, however, perfectly legal for your doctor to prescribe it for you. This is called an "off-label" prescription.

The combined contraceptive pill contains synthetic estrogen and progesterone. It suppresses the natural menstrual cycle, including the hormone surges and dips that occur throughout the month. This often reduces bleeding and cramping during menstruation. Even women who don't have endometriosis find their periods easier to cope with when taking the pill. In women suffering from endometriosis, the hormones in the birth control pill, by keeping the natural hormones in their bodies in good order, help to alleviate heavy blood flow and pain.

It's not just the contraceptive pill that can tackle endometriosis in this way - contraceptive patches or a vaginal ring can have the same effect. You should talk to your doctor about the method that's best for you - and about the potential side effects of using a hormone-based contraceptive. This form of birth control is not safe for everyone.

Not A Cure

Endometriosis is a chronic condition which generally ends only at menopause, therefore neither the pill nor other forms of hormone-based birth control can cure endometriosis permanently. Symptoms usually return after the patient stops using the birth control method (i.e. when she starts trying to get pregnant). Although in some cases patients stay symptom-free for several years after they stop using birth control.

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