All About the Endometrial Lining

What the Uterine Wall Does and What to Do If It’s Too Thick or Too Thin

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

The endometrium is the inner lining of the uterus. It plays an important role in women's reproductive health. The uterine lining changes throughout the month, along with the menstrual cycle, in response to your body's reproductive hormones, estrogen and progesterone.

Sometimes, the endometrial lining is abnormally thick or thin, which can impact your ability to become pregnant and can cause irregular bleeding. Becoming familiar and understanding this changing organ in your body can help you take steps to ensuring that you have a healthy endometrial lining.

SIMLE COLUMNAR CILIATED EPITHELIM--lining the UTERINE

Ed Reschke / Getty Images

Endometrial Lining Function

The main function of the endometrial lining is during a woman's reproductive years. This inner lining of the uterus begins to thicken to prepare for an embryo to implant, or for pregnancy to occur. If pregnancy occurs, the lining helps to maintain the pregnancy. If pregnancy does not occur, the lining sheds (you get your period), and the process begins again for the following cycle.

Where Is the Lining?

The endometrial lining is located in the innermost layer of the uterus, a hollow, pear-shaped organ in a woman's pelvis.

During Menstruation

When you do not become pregnant after ovulation, the estrogen and progesterone levels in your body drop rapidly, which initiates the start of your menstrual cycle. At the start of your menstrual cycle, your body discards the buildup of your endometrial lining, a mix of blood and tissues, which passes through the cervix and exits your body through the vagina. This process can take several days and is most often referred to as your period.

During Conception and Pregnancy

Hormone levels in the body begin to rise again after your period, which initiates changes to the endometrial lining. During the follicular or proliferative phase, estrogen signals for the cells lining the endometrium to multiply and for blood vessels to grow to supply the new layers of cells. At this time, ovulation occurs (an egg is released from one of the ovaries).

Following ovulation, the secretory phase begins, initiated by an increase of the hormone progesterone. Specialized glands in the endometrium begin to secrete nutrients that will nourish an embryo. This thickening of the lining and supply of blood and nutrients prepares the uterine lining for implantation, when a fertilized embryo attaches to the uterine wall. During pregnancy, the endometrial lining continues to thicken to support the growing baby.

Some people may have health conditions that affect the endometrial lining. Different types of therapies, such as hormone replacement therapy or in vitro fertilization (IVF), may be used to improve the condition of the uterine lining if it is too thick or too thin for implantation and pregnancy.

Around Menopause

Menopause is the period of time 12 consecutive months after a woman's last menstrual cycle. This can occur with age (typically between ages 45 and 55), or be triggered by a hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus) or surgery that removes the ovaries. Because there is no cyclical rise and fall of the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone during menopause, the uterine lining is relatively stable during this time.

Is There a “Normal” Endometrial Thickness?

"Normal" endometrial thickness varies from person to person, as well as throughout the person's lifecycle. What is normal for an individual will change during childhood, throughout menstruation, during the reproductive years, and after menopause. Health conditions and medical treatments such as hormone replacement therapy can also affect the thickness of the endometrial lining.

The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) provides the following ranges for "normal" endometrial thickness during:

  • Menstruation: 1–4 millimeters
  • Proliferative Phase: 5–7 millimeters
  • Secretory Phase: 7–16 millimeters
  • Menopause: 5 millimeters or less

Health Conditions That Affect Size

There are various health conditions that affect your endometrial lining, including:

  • Endometriosis: Endometriosis is a condition in which the endometrium grows outside the uterus. This can cause inflammation, irritation, and swelling and can lead to scarring and damage of the tissue surrounding the uterus.
  • Ovarian Tumors, Uterine Cancer, and Fibroids: Any abnormal growth of cells in the uterus, such as cancer or fibroids, can impact the size of the lining of the uterus by blocking blood flow or changing the shape of the uterus.
  • Hyperplasia: Hyperplasia is caused by a hormonal imbalance of estrogen and progesterone. Too much estrogen can overstimulate the endometrial lining to become overly thick.
  • Obesity: Fat tissue is responsible for the production of hormones, including estrogen. Additional body fat can increase your estrogen production and overstimulate the endometrial lining and may increase your risk for endometrial cancer.
  • Medications and Treatments: Medications that act on hormones or hormone receptors, such as tamoxifen (often used in cancer treatment), may increase your risk of abnormal growth in the endometrial lining, including endometrial polyps, hyperplasia, and uterine cancer. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can also cause the endometrial lining to vary because of the increase in estrogen.

What You Can Do

If your endometrial lining is too thick, it could be causing you a great deal of discomfort, including abdominal and pelvic pain, or very heavy bleeding during menstruation. If it is too thin, it may prevent you from getting pregnant. Both conditions can be very stressful. However, there are some steps you can take to manage symptoms and conditions related to your endometrial lining.

Lifestyle Changes

A healthy, well-balanced diet can be beneficial in fighting pain and inflammation, improve blood flow, and support hormonal balance. Overall, healthy diets are linked to better fertility and higher live birth rates, while poor-quality diets are linked to such endometrial conditions as endometriosis and endometrial cancer. A diet that supports healthy endometrial lining includes:

  • A variety of plant foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals (dark, leafy greens, beans, cabbage, broccoli)
  • Whole grains and fiber (brown rice, oats, bran, enriched whole grain product)
  • Omega-3 essential fatty acids (oily fish, flaxseed)
  • Healthful fats (olive oil, nuts, seeds)
  • Lean meats (grass-fed beef, poultry, fish)
  • Spices that increase blood flow (ginger, saffron, turmeric, cinnamon, garlic)

Reducing alcohol, caffeine, and foods high in sugar may also be beneficial. These substances are inflammatory and reduce blood flow.

Exercise may be beneficial in increasing blood flow to the uterine lining. It may also help decrease stress and pain from endometrial hyperplasia.

Natural Treatments

Supplements that studies have revealed may help improve blood flow to the uterus and may increase endometrial thickness include L-arginine and vitamin E.

Many studies cite acupuncture as a commonly used treatment to support women who are trying to get pregnant. One study has shown that acupuncture helped increase the success rate of IVF in study participants. It did not show, however, whether results were due to an increase in blood flow to the uterus, a reduction of stress and anxiety, or a change in immune function.

Medical Treatments

Hormones may be used to moderate the thickness of the endometrial lining. Progesterone may be used in hyperplasia to decrease endometrial thickness. Estrogen may be used to thicken the endometrial lining of if it is too thin. However, hormone treatments are associated with an increased risk of cancer.

If you do not want any future pregnancies, surgery such as a hysterectomy may be an option to discuss with your doctor. Surgery may also be considered if the tissue impacting endometrial thickness is structural, such as a fibroid or polyp. In these cases, surgery may be used to remove the obstruction.

Summary

The endometrium is the inner lining of the uterus. The uterine lining changes throughout the month, along with the menstrual cycle. During a woman's reproductive years, the lining thickens to prepare for pregnancy to occur.

"Normal" endometrial thickness varies from person to person and fluctuates over time. What is normal for one person will change during childhood, throughout menstruation, during the reproductive years, and after menopause. Various health conditions can also affect the endometrial lining. Certain lifestyle factors, such as consuming a healthy, well-balanced diet, can help improve blood flow and decrease pain.

A Word From Verywell

Your endometrial lining is important to your health, whether you are trying to get pregnant, notice changes to your menstrual cycle, or experience bleeding after menopause. You may try lifestyle or natural treatments to help with managing symptoms of thick endometrial lining or be a candidate for medical treatment to improve your chances of getting pregnant.

Speak with your healthcare team to find the best treatment for managing symptoms or treating conditions related to your endometrial lining.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does uterine lining thickness mean?

    Uterine lining thickness is the thickest part of the endometrium. Thickness varies depending on the stage of a person's menstrual cycle. It is the thinnest after menstruation and thickest after ovulation.

  • Does diet influence endometrial lining thickness?

    A diet rich in vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and protein can help to build up your endometrial lining.

  • How is endometrial thickness measured?

    Endometrial thickness is measured in millimeters using an ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

  • Does stress impact the uterine lining?

    One study on infertile women showed that fertility stress was associated with reduced blood flow to the endometrium, which may impact the uterine lining.

Was this page helpful?
18 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Critchley HOD, Maybin JA, Armstrong GM, Williams ARW. Physiology of the endometrium and regulation of menstruationPhysiol Rev. 2020;100(3):1149-1179. doi:10.1152/physrev.00031.2019

  2. National Cancer Institute. Uterus. Updated October 2019.

  3. Office on Women's Health. Your menstrual cycle. Updated March 16, 2018.

  4. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynocologists. Endometriosis. Updated February 2021.

  5. National Institutes on Aging. What is menopause?. Updated September 30, 2021.

  6. Nalaboff KM, Pellerito JS, Ben-Levi E. Imaging the endometrium: disease and normal variantsRadioGraphics. 2001;21(6):1409-1424. doi:10.1148/radiographics.21.6.g01nv211409

  7. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Uterine fibroids. Updated February 2021.

  8. Papatla K, Huang M, Slomovitz B. The obese endometrial cancer patient: how do we effectively improve morbidity and mortality in this patient population?Ann Oncol. 2016;27(11):1988-1994. doi:10.1093/annonc/mdw310

  9. Ascher SM, Imaoka I, Lage JM. Tamoxifen-induced uterine abnormalities: the role of imagingRadiology. 2000;214(1):29-38. doi:10.1148/radiology.214.1.r00ja4429

  10. Vecchia CL, Decarli A, Fasoli M, Gentile A. Nutrition and diet in the etiology of endometrial cancerCancer. 1986;57(6):1248-1253. doi: 10.1002/1097-0142(19860315)57:6<1248::AID-CNCR2820570631>3.0.CO;2-V

  11. Gaskins AJ, Chavarro JE. Diet and fertility: a reviewAm J Obstet Gynecol. 2018;218(4):379-389. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2017.08.010

  12. Gaskins AJ, Chiu Y-H, Williams PL, et al. Maternal whole grain intake and outcomes of in vitro fertilizationFertil Steril. 2016;105(6):1503-1510.e4. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2016.02.015

  13. Hashemi Z, Sharifi N, Khani B, Aghadavod E, Asemi Z. The effects of vitamin E supplementation on endometrial thickness, and gene expression of vascular endothelial growth factor and inflammatory cytokines among women with implantation failureThe Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine. 2019;32(1):95-102. doi:10.1080/14767058.2017.1372413

  14. Takasaki A, Tamura H, Miwa I, Taketani T, Shimamura K, Sugino N. Endometrial growth and uterine blood flow: a pilot study for improving endometrial thickness in the patients with a thin endometriumFertil Steril. 2010;93(6):1851-1858. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2008.12.062

  15. Djaali W, Abdurrohim K, Helianthi DR. Management of acupuncture as adjuvant therapy for in vitro fertilizationMedical Acupuncture. 2019;31(6):361-365. doi:10.1089/acu.2019.1394

  16. Zhang XM, Lv F, Wang P, et al. Estrogen supplementation to progesterone as luteal phase support in patients undergoing in vitro fertilization: systematic review and meta-analysisMedicine (Baltimore). 2015;94(8):e459. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000000459

  17. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Endometrial hyperplasia. Updated February 2021.

  18. Dong Y, Cai Y, Zhang Y, Xing Y, Sun Y. The effect of fertility stress on endometrial and subendometrial blood flow among infertile womenReprod Biol Endocrinol. 2017;15:15. doi:10.1186/s12958-017-0236-7