Pill Can Relieve Endometriosis Pain
Continuous Hormone Administration Is the Key, Study Suggests
Fewer Periods, Less Pain? continued...
The most frequently reported side effects were spotting, seen in 36% of patients, and breakthrough bleeding, seen in 26%. At the final follow-up evaluation, 80% of the women were either very satisfied or satisfied with the treatment and 16% were dissatisfied.
"Continuous use of an oral contraceptive can be considered an effective, nonsurgical treatment alternative in women with symptomatic endometriosis and menstruation-related pain symptoms who do not want [to become pregnant]," researcher Paolo Vercellini, MD, and colleagues wrote in the September issue of the journal Fertility and Sterility.
Not a New Idea
Women's health expert David F. Archer, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Eastern Virginia Medical School, tells WebMD that the Italian study is one of the first to examine continuous oral contraception for the management of pelvic pain caused by endometriosis, even though the treatment has been around for years.
"I think a lot of physicians in the United States have used treatments similar to this," he says. "Women who have moderate to severe pain, like those in this study, often end up having hysterectomies and both ovaries removed at relatively early ages. Certainly this treatment offers an alternative to hysterectomy for many of these women."
But Archer says the Italian study does little to convince him that continuous suppression of ovulation with birth control pills can "cure" endometriosis. And he questions the design of the study, which did not include a comparison group of women either taking placebo treatments or oral contraceptives on the traditional 21-day schedule.
"It is hard to draw firm conclusions from this study," he says. "But for women not seeking pregnancy with moderate to severe pelvic pain, continuous oral contraceptive use appears to be a useful adjunct to existing endometriosis treatments."