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Taking melatonin may help ease pelvic pain and lead to more restful sleep in women with endometriosis, reports a study in the journal, Pain.
Endometriosis is a common gynecological condition in women of reproductive age that’s characterized by the growth of endometrial tissue outside of the uterus, especially on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, outer surfaces of the intestines and uterus, and the lining of the pelvic cavity.
As the lining of the uterus sheds during the menstrual period each month, these patches of tissue also shed, causing bleeding into the surrounding structures. While many women with endometriosis have no symptoms, others may experience extremely painful and heavy periods, infertility, spotting between periods, pain during or after sex, and chronic pelvic pain.
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the body in response to natural light-dark cycles. In addition to its sleep-inducing effects, melatonin has also shown promise for treating endometriosis in preliminary studies. It demonstrates antioxidant, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory effects, all of which may make it a good candidate for alleviating endometriosis symptoms.
Thirty-six women between 18 and 45 years old with chronic pelvic pain from endometriosis took part in a study that assessed the effect of melatonin on pain and sleep quality. For eight weeks, the women took 10 mg of melatonin per day or placebo. The women rated their pain, including the need for analgesics, pain with intercourse, menstrual pain, and pain with elimination, as well as sleep quality at the beginning and end of the trial.
The investigators also studied melatonin’s effect on levels of a substance called brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Lower levels of this substance are associated with decreased perception of pain, and the study found that levels decreased significantly in women taking melatonin. “This finding suggests that melatonin has a direct effect on pain pathways or on the levels of signaling chemicals that regulate pain,” said lead study author, Wolnei Caumo.
There’s no known cure for endometriosis, and treatment options are mostly limited to pain relievers, hormonal medications, and surgery, all of which carry the risk of side effects.
Here are some other strategies that may help ease endometriosis symptoms for some women.