Will Mirena Help Treat Endometriosis or Make It Worse?

Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT on November 14, 2017Written by Annamarya Scaccia

What is Mirena?

Mirena is a type of hormonal intrauterine device (IUD). This long-term contraceptive releases levonorgestrel, a synthetic version of the naturally occurring hormone progesterone, into the body.

Mirena thins the lining of your uterus and thickens cervical mucus. This prevents sperm from traveling to and reaching the eggs. The progestin-only IUD can also suppress ovulation in some women.

The IUD is a long-acting birth control that can be used to prevent more than pregnancy. Mirena can be used to treat endometriosis, as well other conditions such as chronic pelvic pain and heavy periods. It can last up to five years before it needs to be replaced.

Keep reading to learn more about using Mirena to manage endometriosis symptoms, other hormone therapies, and more.

How does Mirena work for endometriosis?

To understand how Mirena can treat endometriosis, it helps to understand the relationship between the condition and hormones.

Endometriosis is a chronic and progressive disorder affecting 1 in 10 females in the United States. The condition causes uterine tissue to grow outside your uterus. This can cause painful periods, bowel movements, or urination as well as excessive bleeding. It may also lead to infertility.

Research has shown that estrogen and progesterone can help control the growth of endometrial tissue. These hormones, which are produced in the ovaries, may help slow tissue growth and prevent new tissue or scars from forming. They can also help ease pain you feel because of endometriosis.

Hormonal contraceptives like Mirena can produce similar effects. For example, the Mirena IUD can help suppress tissue growth, ease pelvic inflammation, and reduce bleeding.

What are the benefits of using Mirena?

IUDs are a form of long-acting contraception. Once the Mirena device is inserted, you won’t have to do anything else until it’s time to swap it out in five years.

That’s right — there’s no daily pill to take or monthly patch to replace. If you’re interested in using an IUD like Mirena to help ease your symptoms, talk to your doctor. They can assess your goals for treatments and walk you through the different IUD options available to you.

Q&A: Who should use Mirena?

Q:

How do I know if the Mirena is right for me?

A:

Hormonal treatment of endometriosis is a common approach that can effectively relieve pain. Mirena is a well-known and well-researched example of the many hormone-releasing IUDs that are available. It works by releasing 20 micrograms (mcg) of the hormone levonorgestrel a day for about five years. This makes it a convenient way to reduce your symptoms and prevent pregnancy.

However, an IUD isn’t a good choice for all women. You shouldn’t use this option if you have a history of sexually transmitted diseases, pelvic inflammatory disease, or cancer of the reproductive organs.

IUDs like Mirena aren’t the only way to receive these hormones. The patch, shot, and oral contraceptives all offer similar hormonal treatment and pregnancy prevention. Not all hormonal therapies prescribed for endometriosis will prevent pregnancy, so be sure to ask your doctor about your medication and use a backup method if needed.

Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHTAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

What are the side effects or risks associated with Mirena?

Mirena isn’t without its downsides, though they’re minimal. The IUD has relatively few side effects, and they tend to fade after the first couple of months.

While your body adjusts to the hormone, you may experience:

There is danger of perforation of the uterine tissue with an IUD. If pregnancy does occur, the IUD could imbed itself in the placenta, injure the fetus, or even cause loss of the pregnancy.

Can you use other forms of hormonal birth control to manage your symptoms?

Progesterone isn’t the only hormone that can help manage endometriosis — estrogen balance is also considered. Hormones that cause the release of estrogen and progesterone are also targeted in treatment.

Talk to your doctor. They can walk you through the pros and cons of each contraceptive and help you find the best fit for your needs.

Common options include:

Birth control pills

Birth control pills contain synthetic versions of estrogen and progesterone. In addition to making your periods shorter, lighter, and more regular, the pill may also provide pain relief during use. Birth control pills are taken daily.

Progestin-only pills or shot

You can take progestin, a synthetic form of progesterone, in pill form or by an injection every three months. The mini-pill must be taken daily.

Patch

Like most birth control pills, the patch contains synthetic versions of estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are absorbed into your body via a sticky patch that you wear on your skin. You must change the patch every week for three weeks, with a week off to allow your menstrual period to occur. You’ll need to apply a new patch once your period is complete.

Vaginal ring

The vaginal ring contains the same hormones found in the pill or the patch. Once you insert the ring into your vagina, it releases the hormones in your body. You wear the ring for three weeks at a time, with a week off to allow for a menstrual period. You’ll need to insert another ring after your period is complete.

Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists

GnRH agonists stop hormone production to prevent ovulation, menstruation, and endometriosis growth, putting your body into a state similar to menopause. The medication can be taken via a daily nose spray, or as an injection once a month or every three months.

Doctors recommend that this medication only be taken for six months at a time to reduce your risk of heart complications or bone loss.

Danazol

Danazol is a drug that prevents hormones from being released during your menstrual cycle. This medication doesn’t prevent pregnancy like other hormonal treatments, so you’ll need to use it alongside your contraceptive of choice. You shouldn’t use danazol without contraception, as the medication is known to harm developing fetuses.

What other treatment options are available?

Your treatment options will vary depending on the type of endometriosis that you have and how severe it is. The typical treatment may include:

Pain medication

Over-the-counter pain relievers and prescribed medication can help ease mild pain and other symptoms.

Laparoscopy

This type of surgery is used to remove endometrial tissue that has spread to other areas of your body.

To do this, your doctor creates an incision in your belly button and inflates your abdomen. They then insert a laparoscope through the cut so they can identify any tissue growths. If your doctor finds evidence of endometriosis, they next make two more small cuts in your stomach and use a laser or other surgical instrument to remove or destroy the lesion. They may also remove any scar tissue that has formed.

Laparotomy

This is a major abdominal surgery used to remove endometriosis lesions. Depending on the location and severity of the patches, your surgeon may also remove your uterus and ovaries. Laparotomy is considered a last resort for endometriosis treatment.

The bottom line

Hormonal birth control can help ease endometriosis symptoms, as well as slow tissue growth. That’s why Mirena is an effective treatment for endometriosis. But not every body’s the same, so your treatment options may vary depending on the condition’s severity and type.

If you have endometriosis and want to learn about Mirena, talk with your doctor about your options. They can provide you with more information about hormonal IUDs and other forms of hormone therapy.

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