May 29, 2024

F1000 Scientist

Health to Life

Understanding Endometriosis and Birth Control Pills

Endometriosis is a chronic, progressive condition that is controlled by hormone levels. So, to better understand the cause and relief for the painful symptoms of endometriosis in women, it’s worth taking a look at the relationship between endometriosis and birth control pills.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition that can effect women once they have reached puberty and started menstruation. Commonly it effects women in the 20’s – 40’s, although there are more incidences of younger women and girls being diagnosed.

Ongoing abdominal pains that can worsen during menstruation as well as pain in other parts of the body characterize endometriosis. This is the main symptom of endometriosis, but it is generally the most debilitating of all the endometriosis symptoms.

Endometriosis gets its name from endometrial tissue similar to those found in the endometrium (uterus lining) growing in other parts of the body, usually the pelvic cavity.

Each month if pregnancy does not occur these tissues, wherever they are situated in the body, grow, shed and bleed. A process controlled by the female hormone, estrogen. For the misplaced endometrial tissue outside of the uterus this results in inflammation and scarring as there is no place for the unwanted tissue to go.

Over time this build up and adhesions can form. These are ropes of scar tissue that join organs together and can impair the flexibility of the reproductive organs, causing infertility. As endometriosis is linked to hormones, symptoms tend to worsen during the menstruation.
By controlling hormones, the symptoms of endometriosis can be minimized. This is where birth control pills come in.

Birth control pills

Birth control pills are primarily developed to help prevent pregnancy among women. These oral contraceptives work by regulating the female hormones. Birth control pills regulate the levels of estrogen and another hormone, progesterone, in the body.

Thus, when a woman is taking birth control pills, her estrogen level is lowered, and the progesterone is raised which stops the growth of endometrial tissue. By doing that, contraceptives can be easily used as a treatment for endometriosis and its symptoms.
For mild to moderate endometriosis, taking the pill is an option that you should talk over with your doctor as a way to control the symptoms.

When taking the pill for endometriosis rather than solely for contraceptive reasons you will take the active pills continuously. This means that you won’t have a period as your body thinks that it is pregnant. By doing this you may find you have some spotting as your body adjusts to the pill.

There are some side effects to bear in mind though and you will need to decide whether the pain of the endometriosis outweighs the risks of taking the pill. Side effects can include weight gain, acne and hair growth on the face.

With surgical options becoming more available you may want to talk over the pros and cons of using the pill to control your symptoms with your doctor.

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Endometriosis and birth control pills have one thing in common: hormones – endometriosis is directly influenced by hormone levels in a woman’s body and the pill regulates those hormones.