Endometriosis is a progressive, chronic disorder that occurs when tissue similar to the uterine lining grows in areas where it does not belong, such as on the fallopian tubes and ovaries. This tissue can cause local inflammation, pain, and scarring. While there is no cure, an intrauterine device, or IUD, can help people manage their symptoms.
Some common symptoms of endometriosis include:
- severe cramps
- heavy menstrual flow
- longer periods
- pain during sex
- bowel or urinary disorders
- nausea or vomiting
Therefore, one treatment option for endometriosis involves hormone therapy, which comes in the form of pills, patches, implants, injections, or the placement of a hormonal IUD.
In this article, learn more about the IUD for endometriosis and how it works.
An IUD is a type of birth control. It is a small, T-shaped device that a doctor or nurse inserts into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. There are two types of IUDs: the copper IUD and the hormonal IUD.
A copper IUD uses a copper coil to prevent sperm from fertilizing an egg. Doctors do not recommend a copper IUD for endometriosis relief as it has no hormonal effects.
However, an IUD that releases progestin, a form of progesterone, is an effective treatment option for some people. Available brands include Mirena and Skyla.
The hormonal IUD often reduces both the size of the lesions and a person’s menstrual flow. In fact, approximately one-third of people stop having their period after a year of using the IUD.
It is important to note that while an IUD may provide pain relief for some people with endometriosis, it cannot help treat endometriosis-related infertility because it is a form of birth control.
Also, doctors typically do not consider the Mirena IUD as a first-line treatment because it does not consistently suppress ovulation as the combined birth control pill does.
An IUD is a type of birth control that a healthcare professional places directly into the uterus through the cervical canal.
The IUD releases progestin, a hormone that can reduce the severity of periods or completely stop them. As a result, it often lessens the pain that can come with endometriosis and painful periods.
When a person takes estrogen and progesterone in the form of birth control, this suppresses ovulation. It may also slow the growth of endometrial tissue and prevent new tissue from forming.
Due to these hormonal effects, an IUD may:
There are several potential benefits to using an IUD.
IUDs are a long lasting, effective form of contraception that can last for several years. Some people consider an IUD to be an easier option than having to remember to take pills or use other forms of contraception.
Also, within a year of use, many people no longer experience a monthly period. For those with endometriosis, this can reduce menstruation-related pain and heavy bleeding.
Hormonal IUDs have some associated side effects. For some people, these side effects are mild and go away within the first few months.
For others, the side effects may be severe and affect their quality of life. Anyone who experiences intolerable side effects should speak to a doctor about different endometriosis treatments.
Some common side effects of a hormonal IUD include:
- water retention
- weight gain
- tenderness in the breasts
- mood swings
- heavier bleeding
- pain in the lower back
- irregular bleeding
- loss of menstruation
- pelvic pain
- pain during or shortly after insertion
Although it is very rare, there is some risk that the IUD may puncture the uterus or fall out.
In the unlikely event that a woman with an IUD gets pregnant, it may damage the fetus, implant in the placenta, or possibly cause the loss of the pregnancy or an ectopic pregnancy.
The insertion of an IUD is a quick outpatient procedure. A doctor or nurse will insert a speculum into the vagina, then use a tool to insert the IUD through the cervix and into the uterus. In most cases, the procedure takes about 5 minutes.
The procedure can be painful, both during and following insertion. The pain typically does not last long and feels like a sharp twinge or menstrual cramp.
Some people choose to take pain relievers before the procedure. A doctor can also offer advice on how to manage any pain.
IUDs are a very effective form of birth control, preventing pregnancy in more than 99% of cases. However, it is still possible to get pregnant as no contraceptive method is 100% effective.
Anyone with an IUD who thinks that they may be pregnant should take a home pregnancy test and see a doctor to confirm the results.
In some cases, a doctor may recommend the removal of the IUD, which presents a risk to the developing fetus. It may injure the fetus or imbed in the placenta. It may also cause premature birth.
People can safely breastfeed with an IUD in place. Some people opt to undergo IUD insertion before leaving the hospital after childbirth.
People with endometriosis might want a doctor or nurse to replace the IUD as soon as possible after delivery if it was an effective treatment before their pregnancy.
In addition to an IUD, people with endometriosis have other treatment options to help alleviate pain and other symptoms.
Some potential options include:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or aspirin
- prescription-strength pain relievers
- other hormone therapies, such as birth control pills, nasal sprays, or injections
- surgery to remove the lesions
- surgery to sever the nerves
Endometriosis is a condition that can cause heavy bleeding and pain — especially during menstruation — as well as several other symptoms.
There is no cure for endometriosis, but hormonal IUDs can offer some relief from symptoms. Anyone with an IUD will also be using an effective form of birth control.
For people who experience bothersome side effects from hormonal medication or wish to get pregnant, other treatment options are available.