Does Birth Control Help With Endometriosis? Navigating a Controversial Endo Topic
The struggle of living with the pain of endometriosis day to day is about to push you over the edge.
You’ve heard about trying birth control to manage endometriosis.
But does birth control really help endometriosis, or does it just mask the symptoms? And what about the side effects? Do they outweigh the benefits?
If you’re thinking about trying birth control to manage your endometriosis, read on and we’ll discuss how it works, birth control options to choose from, and other treatment options available.
Table of Contents
- Does Birth Control Help Endometriosis?
- How Does Birth Control Help Endometriosis? Understanding the Science
- 5 Options To Consider If Choosing Birth Control To Help Minimize Endometriosis Symptoms
- 3 Alternate Options To Using Birth Control To Help Manage Endometriosis Symptoms
- Chiavaye: Helping You Manage Your Endometriosis Symptoms With All-Natural, Vegan, Hypoallergenic Products
Does Birth Control Help Endometriosis?
This is a difficult question to answer definitively, and it’s a touchy and sometimes controversial subject in the endo world.
Birth control can help ease endo symptoms, but it will not heal your endometriosis. If you’re dealing with excessive pain and/or heavy periods, birth control can be a temporary solution to give you some relief from pain and other troublesome symptoms.
Endo treatment with birth control can also be an option for women who aren’t ready yet to try more permanent solutions like surgery or implementing the endo diet.
If you’re considering birth control as an endometriosis treatment, you’ll want to be aware of possible side effects like …
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Bloating; and
… and decide if the benefit of the pill is worth the side effects you may experience.
So, does birth control help endometriosis? It depends on who you ask and which side of the debate they are on.
Some in the endo community view birth control as a band-aid — one that won’t solve your problem, eliminate inflammation, or rid you of the disease.
Others believe birth control can be an effective treatment for endometriosis symptoms to help women more comfortably live with the disease.
In the end, every woman must decide for herself, and I want to help.
That’s why I’ve done the research. I’ve had experience with birth control treatment myself — and I’ve included an explanation of how birth control works to control endo symptoms. I’ve also included some non-birth control alternatives that I believe are preferable and less detrimental to the body.
Chiavaye products are designed with endometriosis sufferers in mind, though any woman can benefit from them. Our personal moisturizer and lubricant is made from all-natural ingredients and makes intimacy more comfortable and enjoyable for women with gynecological issues like endometriosis and menopause.
How Does Birth Control Help Endometriosis? Understanding the Science
Hormonal birth control is used to lessen endometriosis symptoms by decreasing the hormone levels that regulate periods and ovulation.
When a woman ovulates midway through her cycle, the lining of the uterus thickens, and if she doesn’t become pregnant, the lining breaks down and is released during her period.
Birth control helps with endometriosis symptoms by decreasing the amount of estrogen (or adding progesterone to offset high estrogen levels). With lower estrogen levels, the woman’s endometrial tissue doesn’t thicken as much, resulting in lighter periods. Sometimes birth control can stop ovulation altogether.
Birth control treatment for endometriosis may result in …
- Lighter periods
- Shorter periods; or
- Loss of periods
… which could be helpful if you experience painful periods with your endometriosis.
The thing to remember is that even after taking birth control, your symptoms may be improved, but you’ll still have endometriosis. Birth control is not effective in eliminating cysts or other lesions and adhesions.
Birth Control Targets Reproductive Hormones
Many women may use birth control to do what the name implies — prevent a pregnancy. But birth control can help relieve endo symptoms by causing adjustments in reproductive hormones like GnRH (Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone) and estrogen.
Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone and Estrogen
The hypothalamus in the brain is responsible for producing GnRH. This hormone then stimulates the pituitary gland to release two hormones …
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH); and
- Luteinizing hormone (LH)
… that trigger the production of estrogen and ovulation, respectively.
At the beginning of the menstrual cycle, FSH causes estrogen to rise, resulting in a thick endometrial lining. Then ovulation will occur, and if an egg isn’t implanted in the lining, estrogen levels drop, and you experience your period (the shedding of the uterine lining).
For a woman without endometriosis, these fluctuating levels of estrogen are normal. But a woman with endometriosis may produce excessive amounts of estrogen, which can make endometrial tissue grow both inside and outside the uterus, often resulting in extreme pain.
Because some types of birth control stop estrogen production, the thickening of the endometrial tissue is reduced. Other kinds of birth control help endometriosis symptoms by decreasing GnRH production, which also results in lower estrogen levels.
5 Options To Consider If Choosing Birth Control To Help Minimize Endometriosis Symptoms
Knowing that birth control will not heal endometriosis, you may still want to give it a try to see if it will provide some symptom relief. You should know that it may take three to six months to see a difference in your symptoms, and it’s not a permanent solution.
Also, be aware that side effects may come with taking the pill.
I tried hormonal birth control to help with my endometriosis, but the side effects outweighed the benefits for me. I struggled with many common side effects, like …
- Bloating; and
- Weight gain
… and in the end, I still had endometriosis, and my ultrasounds were still the same, with cysts present.
Every woman is different, and your experience may be different from mine.
Each woman will need to weigh the risk/benefit ratio and decide if the pill is a viable option for endo-symptom relief.
#1: Hormonal Birth Control Pills
Hormonal birth control pills come in two types:
- Combination - containing both estrogen and progesterone
- Progesterone only
Hormonal birth control pills prevent pregnancy by releasing hormones that stop ovulation. This type of birth control can shorten or eliminate your period, resulting in decreased endo pain that comes with menstruation.
Other types of hormonal birth control pills work by releasing hormones that alter the uterine lining to stop sperm from fertilizing an egg.
Women who choose this birth control option must take the pill daily, ideally at the same time each day.
#2: Birth Control Patches
Birth control patches work similarly to hormonal pills by preventing ovulation and thickening cervical mucus. The thinner lining can help with endometriosis by causing a shorter or lighter and less painful period.
Patches are different from pills because women do not need to remember to take them every day. The patch can be placed discreetly on the skin and remain there for about a week.
Twirla and Xulane are the two types of birth control patches in the United States. Both contain synthetic forms of estrogen and progesterone, but Twirla contains a lower level of those hormones.
#3: Birth Control Injections
Birth control injections also work by preventing ovulation by releasing a synthetic hormone called progestin. This causes the cervical mucus to thicken and blocks sperm from fertilizing the egg.
Like the other forms of birth control mentioned, this can help relieve endometriosis symptoms like heavy and painful periods.
Birth control injections are known for causing weight gain, and the shot must be given by a doctor every 12 weeks.
#4: Vaginal Ring
A vaginal ring is a plastic, flexible ring about 2 inches in diameter that is inserted into the vagina.
While in place, the ring releases synthetic estrogen and progestin, which are absorbed into the body. The vaginal ring works by halting ovulation and thickening cervical mucus to block sperm.
The NuvaRing must be replaced about every month, while Annovera is a ring that can be rinsed and reused each month and should last for a year.
#5: Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)
Being 99% effective, intrauterine devices are one of the most effective types of birth control.
Like other types of birth control mentioned, IUDs can help shorten or eliminate periods, lessening endo symptoms.
Several types of IUDs work in different ways to stop sperm from reaching the egg. ParaGard uses a copper coil to release copper ions which make sperm ineffective. Other types of IUDs release levonorgestrel and progestin that thicken the cervical mucus that blocks sperm.
A healthcare professional must insert the IUD, which then lasts between three and seven years. Intrauterine devices may be the most expensive form of birth control, costing up to $1,300.
3 Alternate Options To Using Birth Control To Help Manage Endometriosis Symptoms
Excessive cost or risk of bothersome side effects may be some reasons why birth control isn’t a good option to help control your endometriosis symptoms.
If you’d prefer a more natural path and one that has fewer adverse reactions, consider:
- The Endo Diet
- Excision surgery; or
- Other natural remedies
#1: Follow the Endometriosis Diet
Dr. Melissa Thompson PT, DPT, MTC is a board-certified physician who has created a dietary protocol that can help endo sufferers by eating foods that are:
- Dairy-free; and
Because endometriosis is a disease that is centered around chronic inflammation, avoiding food that contributes to inflammation can help lessen endometriosis symptoms.
Gluten and dairy are common culprits that can cause inflammation in the body. And because soy is usually genetically modified and highly processed, it may cause negative effects on the body.
It’s important to note that every woman is different, and an endo diet may have different results for each woman.
If you want to give the endo diet a try, I’d suggest following it for a few weeks, seeing how you feel, and then making adjustments as necessary.
Check out the Chiavaye site for more diet ideas and tips on how to manage your endometriosis symptoms naturally.
#2: Consider Excision Surgery
A highly recommended way to treat endometriosis, rather than putting a band-aid on the symptoms, is with excision surgery.
Even though it is a more invasive treatment than using birth control, it’s highly successful. According to this study, excision “significantly reduces pain and improves quality of life for up to five years.”
In excision surgery, entire lesions are removed from the affected organs, resulting in decreased pain during periods.
Excision surgery has also been shown to be preferable and more effective than ablation or laparoscopy. Another study showed that participants experienced a greater reduction of symptoms and better results at 12 months post-surgery with excision surgery as opposed to ablation (burning of the lesions).
#3: Use Natural Remedies
Treating endometriosis with natural remedies may be preferable to using birth control, and natural remedies can be used with success in conjunction with excision surgery.
In addition to following an endo diet, women can try a variety of natural remedies to find relief from endo pain.
Some of these natural remedies include:
- Heat - warm baths, heating pads, or hot water bottles
- Ginger tea
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Primrose oil
- Coconut oil
- Hydration; and
Chiavaye: Helping You Manage Your Endometriosis Symptoms With All-Natural, Vegan, Hypoallergenic Products
I’ve struggled with endometriosis for as long as I can remember, and after all kinds of treatments — including several surgeries — I’ve been able to find success by treating my symptoms holistically.
I’m passionate about sharing my story and what I’ve learned with others, all in the hopes of encouraging my fellow endo sufferers on the road to better health, more productivity, and living life to the fullest.
Because I struggled with Stage IV endometriosis, I created Chiavaye with women in mind — and not just women with endometriosis.
Chiavaye can be used:
- After childbirth
- With a partner
- To alleviate irritation or dryness due to menopause
- After a surgical procedure; or
- After your monthly cycle
You can rest assured that Chiavaye lube is:
- Fragrance-free; and
Chiavaye makes life better for women. Try it for yourself and see if you don’t agree.
The content in this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.