Endometriosis: How does birth control help…or does it?

Kesmic By Kesmic, 9th Oct 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/1v3j8a72/
Posted in Wikinut>Health>General Health>Women's Health

Birth control, in one form or another, is generally the first thing an endometriosis patient is given to "treat" the disease. Find out what it does and whether it's helping your endo.

First things first

To understand how birth control affects endometriosis, you’ll need to understand the role of hormones in your monthly cycle. This is a very general explanation and does not include all information about all hormones involved.

Menses

The menstrual cycle starts on the first day of a woman’s period. During this time both estrogen and progesterone levels are low. Low levels of estrogen and progesterone stimulate release of GnRH (gonadotropin-releasing hormone) from the hypothalamus. GnRH stimulates the pituitary gland to release FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone) into the blood stream. Both hormones stimulate the ovaries.

Follicular phase

FSH stimulates growth of the primary, secondary, and mature ovarian follicles; the mature follicle contains the egg that will be released. Each follicle releases estrogen. Estrogen stimulates growth and division of endometrial cells. At this point estrogen is at its highest level.High estrogen levels cause more GnRH, LH, and FSH to be released. As a result, LH levels peak and trigger release of the egg (ovulation, day 14).

Luteal phase

After the egg is released, the follicle (now called the corpus luteum) starts releasing progesterone, estrogen, and inhibin. Inhibin inhibits the release of FSH and LH. The corpus luteum lives for about 2 weeks, during which there is no FSH or LH secretion, there are moderate estrogen levels, and high levels of progesterone.

Moderate levels of estrogen inhibit the release of GnRH, LH, and FSH. So that leaves a lot of progesterone and a moderate amount of estrogen both being released from the corpus luteum. When the corpus luteum dies, progesterone and estrogen levels drop to their lowest point, marking the end of that monthly cycle. The woman gets her period and GnRH, FSH, and LH levels start to rise…the whole cycle begins again. That is, unless the woman gets pregnant. In that case the corpus luteum lives long enough for the placenta to take over and produce progesterone.

The big picture

So here’s the whole pretty picture, because who doesn’t love a pretty picture, in an ovary. Get it? In an ovary…instead of in a nutshell?

Okay, it was funnier in my mind.

Birth control is generally synthetic estrogen, progesterone, or a combination of both (depends on the birth control). The dosage and timing is adjusted to prevent ovulation from happening again.

Soooooooooo…more progesterone equals less estrogen (a moderate amount). Less estrogen means less stimulation of endometrial cells. And we all know how much endo loves being stimulated by estrogen! Less stimulated endo could possibly equal less inflammation.

Birth control does not offer relief to all endo patients. It is not a cure nor is it a treatment. At best, it might regulate a woman’s hormone levels and decrease (to varying extents) endo flares.

Tags

Birth Control, Endo, Endometrial Cells, Endometriosis, Estrogen, Gnrh, Menstrual Cycle, Ovaries, Ovary, Progesterone

Meet the author

author avatar Kesmic
Kesmic A. Jackson, PhD is a freelance science writer, certified yoga instructor, and women’s health advocate. She has a passion for increasing endometriosis awareness and education.

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