Endometriosis, a condition where uterine tissue grows outside the uterus and sheds monthly, as if it were a period, can cause a wide range of symptoms, including serious pain, bleeding, problems with organ function and issues with fertility. There's been more awareness of endometriosis over the last few years, but it still remains under the radar — as does the fact that treating it can be a long and very individual process. Using birth control can treat endometriosis, but, as four women who've managed their endo through birth control tell Bustle, is that this regimen can often involve a lot of trial and error to get results.
"Hormonal contraceptives containing both estrogen and progestins — such as the most common types of birth control pills, as well as the contraceptives like the hormonal vaginal ring and the patch — are often prescribed to people with endometriosis," research scientists at period-tracking app Clue tell Bustle. Everything from the combination pill to progestin-only options like the mini-pill or the hormonal IUD can help manage endometriosis.
However, Dr. Gerardo Bustillo, an OB/GYN at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center, tells Bustle that endometriosis often has multi-stage treatments: First birth control is used, and then other options are explored. "The goal of treatment is to relieve any symptoms, pelvic pain and infertility," he says. If contraceptives don't work, he explains, drugs that cause "a temporary menopause-like state by sharply lowering estrogen levels in the body" are the next suggestion, followed by surgery. "In patients with recurrent symptoms who have failed medical treatment and are not interested in future fertility, definitive surgery including hysterectomy and removal of both ovaries is recommended," he says.
Four women tell Bustle about their experiences with endometriosis treatment using birth control — and what happened afterwards.