Many doctors advise women with severe menstrual cramps or heavy bleeding to take birth control pills in the hopes that they will suppress any possible endometriosis. These women are generally told that to have the maximum therapeutic effect they should take the birth control pill as long as possible. To understand why many doctors recommend The Pill, it is necessary to first understand endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a condition in which cells which normally line the uterus are also found outside of the uterus. These endometrial implants can be found on the bladder, the intestines, in and on the fallopian tubes and on the ovaries. When a woman has normal cycles, the developing follicle (egg) on the ovary secretes estrogen; the estrogen acts on the lining of the uterus, signaling it to proliferate, becoming thicker and more vascular so that it can potentially support a baby. In a woman with endometriosis, the estrogen tells the lining of the uterus to build up, but it will also stimulate the endometrial implants outside the uterus to grow and proliferate. The theory behind prescribing hormonal contraception is that if the woman does not ovulate then the endometrial implants will not be stimulated, therefore the endometriosis won’t progress further.
There are many things to consider regarding the treatment of endometriosis with The Pill. First, there are the numerous side effects and contraindications of hormonal contraceptives. Side effects may include nausea, weight gain, sore breasts, blood clots, spotting, and decreased libido. The traditional birth control pill is not recommended for women over age 35, smokers, or those who are nursing. Also, although the birth control pill is supposed to suppress ovulation, it does not always do so. The Pill’s other actions include thickening the cervical mucus in order to impede sperm transport, and thinning the lining of the uterus, making unable to support a developing baby. In addition, there is a risk of breast cancer and infertility down the road for women taking birth control pills.
The only way to actually diagnose endometriosis is with a surgical procedure that allows the doctor to see and eliminate the endometial implants in the abdominal cavity. Many women are being treated with the birth control pill for presumed endometriosis, meaning they have heavy bleeding and cramping but have never been diagnosed. These women may end up taking medication for all of their reproductive years without a real diagnosis, or real treatment.
In the Creighton Model System, women with symptoms of endometriosis are sent for a consult with a NaPro Technology trained surgeon. Surgical treatment with a NaPro trained surgeon results in a very low incidence of adhesions or recurrence of implants, two of the primary concerns of endometriosis surgery. Because endometriosis can be a factor in infertility, surgical intervention is the only treatment that results in the greatest improvement in symptoms and the best chance of achieving a pregnancy in the future.
In the Creighton Model System, the cause of a woman’s symptoms such as heavy bleeding, pelvic pain, or infertility must first be diagnosed—and the cause may or may not be endometriosis. Hormone imbalances or other conditions such as fibroids can also cause heavy bleeding. The woman is treated based NOT ONLY on her symptoms but also on the actual disease process, resulting in real curative treatment as opposed to a mere suppression or temporary limitation of symptoms which is the effect attained with hormonal contraception.