For almost a century women used to believe that pregnancy is the best cure for endometriosis and menstrual problems. The hypothesis sprang up in the 1920s when researchers discovered that a significant number of women suffering from a bad case of endometrial cyst had never conceived. These days not getting pregnant was a far less normal situation for a married woman, so this link was looked upon as the radical factor in developing endometriosis. The doctors arrived at the conclusion that the disease reflected fertility problems. Another, less happy, assumption was that pregnancy cures cysts and menstrual irregularities.
Now we know that, regrettably, pregnancy doesn’t cure these dysfunctions – yet many people, doctors among them, are still clinging to old and untrue beliefs.
“This was an absolutely incorrect leap of faith” is the expert opinion of Oregon ob-gyn David Redwine, a worldwide specialist on endometriosis who wrote the wraparound book 100 Questions and Answers about Endometriosis.
In fact, Redwine points out, endometriosis patients do feel relief when they are pregnant and nursing – which helps the myth to survive – but it is caused by the alleviation of the uterine cramps and has nothing to do with the actual curing of the condition. The pain returns with the return of menstruation because the endometriosis itself hasn’t been affected by pregnancy.
The same goes for the notion that pregnancy helps get rid of a number of menstrual problems, especially as concerns heavy and painful bleeding. There are no scientific grounds to believe that it is so; the belief persisted due to the relief pregnancy brings. Jacqueline Trejo, Santa Monica’s practicing ob-gyn, explains that, while menstruations cease, women naturally feel relieved, but it’s not for ever, and the irregularities are likely to resume after birth.
What really affects these conditions is time. Pain and irregularity in menstruation are much more characteristic of the teen age and early 20s, Trejo explains, and they are likely to get more regular after the woman has turned 25. As it goes, it’s an easy conclusion that it was caused by pregnancy – but it will be an entirely wrong one. Time is the healer in this case.