Studies show that heroin and other opioid use impairs sexual health. These impairments are different between men and women because each gender has distinct sexual reproductive systems. Male heroin users often have problems with erections, testosterone and sperm count, while female heroin users generally have problems with ovulation and menstruation (period). In one small scientific study, menstruation stopped in 15 of 29 opiate dependent women, i.e. 52% of them lost their period.
Disruption of ovulation is called Anovulation, which is the failure to ovulate. Ovulation is the release of an egg from the ovary. After the egg is released it remains healthy and available for fertilization for approximately 48 hours. If the egg remains unfertilized, the production of estrogen and progesterone drops off, and that triggers the shedding of the endometrium (lining of the uterus), which indicates the onset of the next menstrual cycle.
A woman’s period (menstrual cycle) is the shedding of the lining of the uterus (endometrium) accompanied by bleeding. It typically starts about 14-days after the egg is released. As the body sheds the lining, it passes through a small opening in the cervix and discharges out through the vaginal canal. Menstrual bleeding lasts 3 to 7 days, and averages about 5-days. Unlike bleeding from an injury, menstrual blood usually does not clot.
- Oligomenorrhea: Oligomenorrhea is a condition of infrequent menstrual cycles.
- Amenorrhea: Amenorrhea is the complete cessation of menstrual cycles for months or longer.
The effect of heroin on ovulation and menstruation are correlated with the rise and fall of the gonadal steroids. Luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone, which are produced by the pituitary gland, promote ovulation and stimulate the ovaries to produce estrogen. Heroin suppresses the release of Luteinizing hormone, which invariably suppresses estrogen production and the release of the egg. Without an egg being released, there is never a trigger to begin shedding of the lining of the uterus, i.e. no menstrual cycle.
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