Affecting about 11% of American women of reproductive age, endometriosis describes a condition in which the inner lining of the uterus -- the endometrium -- begins to grow outside of its usual location. It could be inside the Fallopian tubes, on the ovaries, or outside of the uterus altogether, and it can be quite painful while leading to unusual bleeding.
Other complications are also associated with endometriosis, including scar tissue formation, prolonged or heavy menstrual periods, pain in your back and abdomen as well as your pelvis. Endometriosis can form scar tissue and lead to bouts of fatigue. Your intestines and bladder may suffer from the effects of this extra endometrial tissue. Endometriosis can be treated, but it isn’t curable.
Interfering with fertility
There’s one thing that most women with endometriosis are ultimately concerned about: getting pregnant. It’s true that most will experience some trouble when it comes to conception, but it’s impossible to make a blanket statement that endometriosis causes infertility in all women. Some women can and will conceive in spite of the presence of the condition. Let’s look more deeply into the causes of endometriosis, pregnancy outcomes, and treatment options.
Reasons behind endometriosis
The precise cause of endometriosis isn’t known, but possible explanations include:
- Problems with menstruation: Menstrual blood follows an abnormal route.
- Embryonic cell growth: Embryonic cells lining the abdomen may develop into endometrial tissue outside of the uterus.
- Surgery: If you’ve had a procedure like a hysterectomy or C-section, endometrial cells can move during or after.
- Cell transport: Your lymphatic system transports cells, and it may transport endometrial cells to areas where they don’t belong.
- Genetics: You’re more likely to develop endometriosis if a first-degree relative, such as your parents, full siblings, or children, also has the condition.
- Hormones: Too much estrogen can contribute to endometriosis.
- Immune system: Normally, your immune system would destroy tissues where they don’t belong, but issues with the immune system may prevent proper targeting.
Endometriosis and fertility
There’s no known causal relationship between endometriosis and infertility, but research continues. Some studies suggest that an estimated 30-50% of women with endometriosis will experience infertility, which is defined as a failure to conceive after trying for one year. Other research has pinpointed endometriosis as a risk factor for miscarriage, but it isn’t known why there’s a statistical correlation.
There are some suspected reasons as to why endometriosis interferes with fertility and conception. These include:
- Blocked reproductive organs
- Distorted reproductive organs
- Inflammation of reproductive and pelvic organs
- Decreased egg quality
- Problems with embryo implantation
However, not every woman with endometriosis will struggle to get pregnant or experience pregnancy complications, and women without endometriosis can still experience infertility issues that stem from other causes.
Conceiving with endometriosis
If you have endometriosis and haven’t tried to get pregnant, attempting to conceive naturally is the first step before seeking help from a fertility doctor. Usually, it takes a year of trying to get pregnant before fertility treatments are considered, but some doctors may recommend you seek treatment after six months of attempts if you have endometriosis.
Some of your treatment options could include:
First, you can consider surgical removal of the extrauterine tissue. Surgery appears to increase success rates for fertility treatments down the line, and research has shown that removal of extrauterine tissue improves live birth rates.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
This procedure may be done with or without fertility drugs as an extra helper. It involves transferring semen to the uterus via a small tube.
In vitro fertilization (IVF)
Considered the most effective fertility treatment available, IVF involves a lengthy egg production and egg removal process, followed by the replacement of fertilized eggs into the uterus.
Dr. Samuel Van Kirk is an endometriosis specialist, ready to assist you in whatever way he and his team can. This can include treating your endometriosis to encourage natural conception or helping you with an assisted fertilization procedure. Contact his office by phone when you need help with any aspect of your endometriosis. Call today.