Endometriosis is linked to your fertility potential and the severity of your infertility condition.
Endometriosis, regardless of its degree of severity, almost always makes it more difficult to conceive. As a matter of fact, a woman with endometriosis has a significantly reduced chance of conceiving – as much as 4-6 times – than a woman without endometriosis. Once pregnant, a woman with endometriosis will also have a higher rate of miscarriage than a woman who does not have endometriosis.
How is endometriosis defined?
Endometriosis is present when uterine tissue—normally lining the inside of the uterus (endometrium)— grows outside of the uterus. These uterine tissues can grow on ovaries, fallopian tubes, and sometimes even on the bladder and the intestines. The growth of uterine tissue on these organs irritates the organs it touches causing pain, adhesions, and scar tissue.
Endometriosis exact cause is unclear
It is not clear what is the exact cause of endometriosis. Several factors may play a role:
a) Genetic factor. There appears to be a genetic factor to endometriosis as women whose family members like their mother, sisters, aunts or grandmothers experienced endometriosis are more likely to develop it.
b) Exposure to xenoestrogens. Man-made toxins such as pesticide, herbicides, fertilizers, dioxin and plastics, which all been shown to disrupt the endocrine system, have been linked to endometriosis.
c) Underlying pathological conditions. Problems with the lymphatic system and underlying immunological disorders may also be contributors toward endometriosis development.
d) Free radical exposure. There is convincing research that demonstrates a link between free radicals and cell damage, which may be a leading contributor to endometriosis. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage cell structures. They are normally produced as a result of activity in the body but can also be formed due to chemicals in our environment. Free radicals contribute to the aging process, cause tissue damage, and potentially cause the spread of disease.
Here is how you may know that you have endometriosis
Many women who suffer from endometriosis report pelvic or abdominal pain that is especially pronounced when menstruating or when having an intercourse. Some women experience also no symptoms even though they do have endometriosis.
In the cases when the endometrium (tissues) grows inside the ovary, an ovarian cyst called endometrioma is formed that can usually be detected by an ultrasound. Most other growth of endometriotic tissue is not detectable by an ultrasound. The most reliable way for certain to diagnose the existence of endometriosis is through a surgical procedure called laparoscopy.
Severity of endometriosis matters
The surgery required to diagnose endometriosis (laparoscopy) will inform about the amount, location, and depth of your endometriosis. Using these criteria, the severity of your endometriosis will be determined.
Women with the most severe endometriosis (Stage 4) have considerable scarring, blockage of fallopian tubes, and damaged ovaries. Natural conception in those cases is nearly impossible. If you are a woman with Stage 4 endometriosis you will most likely require fertility treatment in order to conceive.
Endometriosis may be the cause of your infertility
The ability to conceive is compromised in many women who have endometriosis. Up to 30 – 50 percent of women with endometriosis experience infertility. Fertility is affected by endometriosis in the following ways:
- the anatomy of the pelvis becomes distorted
- adhesions are present
- scarring on the fallopian tubes occur
- inflammation develops
- immune system dysfunction happen
- changes in the hormones that affect the eggs occur
- impaired implantation of a fertilized egg is observed
- altered egg quality is seen
Endometriosis and associated infertility are treated by different interventions
The approaches to treat endometriosis are numerous and include the following:
- Birth control pills. Endometriosis needs the female hormone estrogen to develop and grow. Therefore, drugs that lower or block estrogen can be effective in improving the symptoms of pain and the growth of endometrium tissue.
- Surgery. If the endometriosis can be located, tissues and scarring from endometriosis can be removed surgically, which will restore normal anatomy and allow the body to function normally again. Surgery also greatly improves the chances of becoming pregnant especially if endometriosis is in the moderate or severe range.
- In vitro fertilization (IVF). Assisted reproductive technology, such as IVF, may be beneficial for women with endometriosis who are trying to conceive.
If you suspect you have endometriosis
The best treatment for endometriosis and its associated infertility is highly individualized. Always, the first approach should be to take care-of of your underlying endometriosis first before the treatment for infertility is to be pursued and/or initiated.
Opionato (www.opionato.com) is your trusted go-to fertility expert accessible at anytime from anywhere. We assess your fertility potential and provide next-step fertility advice so your path to pregnancy is short and stress-free.
Opionato started with one woman’s personal fertility experience and the vision to give others what she lacked. Read Maja’s story here: https://www.opionato.com/blog/what-i-wish-i-knew-my-fertility-journey.