A common problem, endometriosis makes it difficult for many couples to conceive. Thankfully, surgery and other methods of fertility treatments offer excellent outcomes for couples struggling with endometriosis.
What is Endometriosis?
When the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus (endometrium) is found outside the uterus, it is called “endometriosis.” To further explain, the cells in the inside lining of the uterus support early pregnancy. Every month, these cells multiply and grow, and then they die and shed during a menstrual cycle. In most women, these cells also escape through the fallopian tubes into the abdomen. When this happens, the immune system is supposed to kill these cells. Most endometriosis is thought to occur when this process is not successfully completed, and these endometrial cells continue to grow and cause irritation with each menstrual cycle.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
Many women with endometriosis experience pelvic or abdominal pain, particularly with their menstrual bleeding or with sex. Some women have no symptoms at all.
Endometriosis typically results in a long-term inflammatory state within the pelvis. This inflammation is thought to be damaging to eggs immediately after ovulation. In addition, endometriosis can cause scar tissue, which creates anatomic barriers for achieving pregnancy including damage to the fallopian tubes and ovaries. Finally, some forms of endometriosis are associated with a host of hormone receptor irregularities that may even lead to abnormal bleeding patterns.
Endometriosis and Infertility
If you have endometriosis, it may be more difficult for you to become pregnant. Up to 30% to 50% of women with endometriosis may experience infertility. However, the presence of endometriosis does not mean that a couple cannot conceive on their own. One study found that approximately 5% of women undergoing surgery to have their tubes tied also had endometriosis.
Treatment for Endometriosis
The treatment for endometriosis is subdivided into women trying to get pregnant and women who are not. In women who do not want to get pregnant, suppression of ovulation through methods such as the long-term use of birth control pills will help.
In women wishing to conceive, many experts believe that surgery may modestly improve the chances for natural conception. Surgery in the form of a minimally invasive laparoscopy can oftentimes both diagnose endometriosis and surgically destroy endometriosis lesions seen at that time. For more severe cases of endometriosis where anatomic damage has occurred, surgery is even more helpful.
In some cases surgery may benefit, but the enhanced fertility effect lasts only for six to nine months. Couples should be prepared to used more advanced therapies in cases of advanced disease or prolonged difficulty achieving pregnancy. Ultimately, if surgery and other methods of fertility treatments such as IUI are unsuccessful, IVF offers excellent outcomes for couples struggling with endometriosis.
If you have questions about endometriosis and treatment options available, please contact the doctors at Fertility Associates of Memphis at 901-747-2229.