When you become injured your body releases a hormone-type chemical called prostaglandins at the site of the injury. Their job is to determine what your body needs to help heal, and they help make it happen. Prostaglandins are responsible for helping your blood clot when you cut yourself or telling your injury to swell or become warm. Although this is an incredibly useful job inside the body, nobody wants to be pain or suffer the ache of inflammation. If you’ve ever taken Aspirin or Ibuprofen (or any NSAID) to help with pain, what you’re doing is taking medicine to control the production of prostaglandins so you can feel better. When you take a NSAID to help with pain you are not reducing prostaglandins that are already present, but instead, preventing more from being released.
Prostaglandins are present throughout the body including a woman’s uterus, specifically inside the endometrial layer. As a woman’s monthly cycle progresses, prostaglandins respond to hormonal fluctuations and are released, creating muscle contractions, cramps, inflammation and pain. Furthermore, if a woman has Endometriosis, the endometrial implants found outside the uterus will create swelling and pain wherever they reside. The result can be minimally uncomfortable all the way through excruciating.
Women who have endometrial implants on their colon may find that when their period starts they have painful bowel movements or diarrhea. An implant found on the fallopian tubes or ovary may create intense pain during ovulation. The pain is not caused from the implant itself but from to the release of prostaglandins in that area.
Prostaglandin production can be reduced by taking NSAIDs like Aspirin, Aleve, or Ibuprofen. Women who experience recurring pain with intercourse may find relief in taking medication before intercourse instead of afterward. Women who can find a noticeable pattern to their pain might try being proactive with medication, not reactive.
Prostaglandins are important to the body and do serve a purpose, but some people suffer from chronic excess inflammation. Researchers are currently studying prostaglandins and their role in a number of chronic diseases, including Endometriosis.