Many women around the world are affected by endometriosis. It is a condition where the lining of the uterus, known as the endometrium, is found growing outside the uterus, including the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, and can even extend to the bladder and bowels (intestines). The endometrium is the tissue that is associated with your monthly menstrual cycle and it thickens and is shed along with your periods every month. However, the displaced tissue that grows outside of the uterus has no place to exit the body from and therefore becomes trapped inside the body itself. Endometriosis is often characterized by heavy and painful periods, pelvic pain, abdominal cramps, and painful sex as well. Many women who suffer from endometriosis commonly face fertility problems and it is known to be a leading cause of infertility.
There are many who believe that using Mirena can actually treat women having endometriosis. The Mirena coil is a commonly used contraceptive device that is shaped like a small plastic T. It is an intrauterine device that contains progestogen (similar to progesterone) that is released into the uterus over a period of five years. Mirena has been used as a contraceptive for many years now, but it is only recently that it has started being used for treating endometriosis as well. How successful is Mirena at treating endometriosis and how does it work? Let us find out.
What is Mirena?
The Mirena coil has been growing in popularity over the years as a contraceptive device. It is a small plastic T-shaped intrauterine device that stops you from becoming pregnant. It works by releasing progestogen or levonorgestrel (similar to progesterone) into the uterus over a period of five years to prevent pregnancy. Both these substances are the synthetic version of the naturally occurring hormone progesterone. The Mirena coil is also known by its generic name – levonorgestrel intrauterine system or LNG-IUS.
Mirena works by thinning the uterus lining and thickening the cervical mucus so that the sperm is unable to travel to and reach the eggs. There is also a progestin-only IUD which is capable of suppressing ovulation in women who use it.
Mirena has been used as a contraception device around the world for many years now. However, it is only recently that doctors have started to investigate the possible use of Mirena in the treatment of endometriosis. Keep in mind that this use of Mirena has not been approved for use in most countries.
Apart from endometriosis, doctors are of the opinion that Mirena can be used to use conditions such as heavy periods and chronic pelvic pain as well.
How Does Mirena Help Treat Endometriosis?
One needs to first understand the association between endometriosis and what role hormones play in the condition. Endometriosis is a progressive disorder that affects one out of ten females. Endometriosis causes the tissue lining your uterus, known as endometrium, to grow outside the uterus, causing painful periods, bowel movements and even painful urination in some cases. This displaced growth of the uterine tissue also causes excessive bleeding and is believed to be one of the most common causes of infertility in women.
New research has now shown that estrogen and progesterone can actually help control the growth of this endometrial tissue. Produced by the ovaries, both estrogen and progesterone may be helpful in slowing down the growth of the endometrial tissue and also prevent new scars or tissues from forming. This will help with the pain women feel because of endometriosis.
Contraceptives like Mirena, that are hormonal in nature, can be used to produce similar effects. Therefore, experts believe that the Mirena coil can actually help suppress tissue growth and also provide relief from pelvic inflammation. It will also be helpful in reducing bleeding during your periods.
Benefits of Using Mirena
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are preferred by many women because they act as a long-lasting contraception and you do not need to worry about becoming pregnant for the next five years after having Mirena inserted. This also finishes off the daily routine of having to remember to take your pills or even having to replace your monthly patch. Moreover, with the relief Mirena provides in the symptoms of endometriosis, it is well worth the investment of having Mirena put in. However, keep in mind that an IUD is not a good choice for all women. If you have a history of sexually transmitted diseases, cancer of the reproductive organs, or pelvic inflammatory disease, then your doctor will advise you against using Mirena.
Also, keep in mind that not all hormonal therapies that are prescribed for endometriosis prevent pregnancy. So you will have to clarify with your doctor about your medication and then use a backup contraceptive if required.
Side Effects of Using Mirena
There are certain side effects of using the Mirena coil. However, Mirena still has relatively fewer side effects as compared to other contraceptive methods and they tend to subside after using Mirena for a couple of months. So in the time period that your body is adjusting to the hormone, you may face the following symptoms:
- Tender breasts
- Loss of menstruation
- Heavier bleeding
- Mood fluctuations
- Lower back pain
- Pelvic pain or cramping
- Weight gain
- Water retention
One thing that you need to be particular about while using Mirena is that there is a danger of the IUD perforating into the uterine tissue. Following this, if a pregnancy occurs, there is a possibility of the IUD embedding itself into the placenta and injuring the fetus or causing a miscarriage. Therefore, always opt for Mirena only after discussing everything with your doctor.
Managing Endometriosis With Other Hormonal Contraceptives
It is possible to control your endometriosis by using other forms of hormonal contraceptives. Apart from progesterone, estrogen balance is also another method that is considered for many women. Other forms of treatment also target hormones that cause estrogen and progesterone to be released. There are pros and cons to each contraceptive and your doctor will help you find one that fits your needs the best. Some of the common options are as follows:
- Birth Control Patch: These contain synthetic versions of progesterone and estrogen and these hormones get absorbed into your body through a sticky patch. You need to wear the patch on your skin and it needs to be changed every week for three weeks, and then one week off so that your menstrual periods can happen. After your periods are complete, you will need to apply a new patch to start the cycle over again. It is a bit bothersome and one needs to keep track of when it’s time to change the patch.
- Birth Control Pills: These pills also contain synthetic versions of progesterone and estrogen, similar to the patch. You will need to take them daily and then stop after one strip gets over to get your menstrual periods. You will restart the pills on the fifth or sixth day of your periods. These birth control pills also work to make your periods regular, shorter, and lighter. They are also known to provide relief from pain during your periods.
- Progestin-only Shots or Pills: Progestin is a synthetic form of progesterone. It can be taken by an injection or in the form of a pill. The injection needs to be taken once in every three months while the pill has to be taken daily.
- Vaginal Ring: This ring contains the same hormones that are present in birth control pills or the patch. Once the ring is inserted into your vagina, it begins to release these hormones into your body. The ring is worn for three weeks in a row at one time and then it has to be taken off for one week to allow for your menstrual periods to take place. A new ring has to be inserted once your periods are finished.
Using hormonal birth control can definitely help provide relief from the symptoms of endometriosis and slow down the growth of displaced tissue. This is why Mirena is considered to be an effective treatment for endometriosis. However, everyone has a different body type and therefore the treatment options will also vary depending on what suits you and what is the severity of your endometriosis. Talking to your doctor about using Mirena for treating endometriosis will help you make an informed decision. If Mirena is not the correct option for you, then you can also choose from the other hormonal contraceptives that are available today.
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