Endometriosis is a leading cause of infertility among women. Find out what it is, how it causes problems with conceiving and what you can do about it.
Endometriosis is a leading cause of infertility among women. However, having endometriosi doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have problems conceiving. With that said, if you have been trying for a while with no success, it’s a good idea to consult your gynecologist. There are a number of treatment methods, which include fertility drugs and surgery that can help resolve the issues between endometriosis and fertility.
What is endometriosis?
If you suffer from very painful periods, odds are that you may have endometriosis. This condition is caused by abnormal growth of your uterus lining, where the tissue grows out of the uterus and attaches itself to other parts like your fallopian tubes, bladder or other organs. As you approach your period, the tissue breaks down and causes inflammation and scarring, which is why periods feel so painful.
Aside from pain, the other symptoms of endometriosis can include:
- Heavy menstruation with clotting
- Long or irregular menstrual cycles
- Pain during sex, bowel movement or urination
- Swollen ovaries
Endometriosis affects 6-10% of all women, so it is actually quite a common condition. If you suspect you have endometriosis, you can approach your doctor for a diagnosis even before trying to conceive.
How does endometriosis cause infertility?
The problem with endometriosis that can cause lower fertility is the scarring on your reproductive organs. For women with little or mild scarring, you have about a 7-10% chance of conceiving each month, as compared to the 20-25% chance experienced by women without menstrual problems. Despite the lower odds, 75-80% of women with endometriosis succeed in conceiving naturally.
However, women who suffer from severe scarring which has affected the fallopian tubes and ovaries will experience much greater difficulty with conceiving, as scars may cause eggs to not be released at all or be blocked along the way. In this case, they must have medical help in order to conceive.
Another problem caused by endometriosis is the increased risk of miscarriage. The reasons for this are not fully known, but experts think that it is because the body sees the abnormal endometrial tissue that has grown outside the uterus as toxic, and produces antibodies to kill the tissue. These antibodies can end up attacking the uterine lining as well and causing miscarriages.
Ways to treat endometriosis-related infertility
Based on your diagnosis, your gynecologist may suggest the following treatment methods.
- Laparoscopy: Endometriosis can only be confirmed through a surgical procedure where the doctor makes a small cut into your abdominal area to inspect for abnormal scar tissues. At the same time, the doctor can surgically remove any such tissue that is found. Many women are able to naturally conceive after the blockage is removed, although the scar tissue will build up over time again.
- Medication and IUI: Fertility drugs can regulate ovulation, which help with raising chances of pregnancy. Intrauterine insemination can be paired with these medications for greater success, as sperm that is directly injected into the uterus will live longer.
- IVF. In-vitro fertilisation can work very well for women with endometriosis because for many of them, the problem is with the scarring on their ovaries or fallopian tubes. By extracting the eggs and fertilising them out of the body, this can solve the problem and they can have normal pregnancies.