Endometriosis and Fertility: Causes, Treatments, and Support
Endometriosis is characterised by the growth of tissue similar to the lining of the womb in areas such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. This can cause severe pelvic pain and heavy, painful periods. Many people first become aware they have endometriosis when they have trouble getting pregnant.
How Does Endometriosis Affect Fertility?
Endometriosis increases the risk of infertility, but most people with the condition can still get pregnant naturally. It just may take longer compared to people without endometriosis. In some cases, the endometrial tissue can damage the ovaries and fallopian tubes enough to make natural conception impossible.
Experts aren’t entirely sure why endometriosis hinders fertility. One theory is that the endometrial tissue triggers inflammation that harms the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Even mild endometriosis can worsen your chances of getting pregnant.
What are the Symptoms of Endometriosis?
The most common symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Painful periods
- Pain during or after sex
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Painful bowel movements
- Bleeding between periods
- Fatigue and nausea
However, some people have no symptoms at all. Endometriosis can only be diagnosed definitively through laparoscopic surgery.
What Infertility Treatments Are Available?
If endometriosis makes getting pregnant difficult, your GP should refer you to a fertility specialist. They will discuss treatments like:
- Laparoscopic surgery – This minor surgery removes endometrial tissue. It’s done through tiny incisions using a tiny camera called a laparoscope.
- Assisted reproductive techniques – In vitro fertilisation (IVF) can help people with endometriosis get pregnant. Other options are intrauterine insemination (IUI) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
The best treatment depends on factors like your age, the severity of the endometriosis, and other fertility issues. Your doctor should explain the pros and cons of each option for your situation.
What is IVF and How Does it Work?
IVF is an effective fertility treatment for endometriosis. Here is a quick overview of the IVF process:
- Ovarian stimulation – Fertility medications are used to produce multiple mature eggs.
- Egg retrieval – Eggs are collected through a minor surgical procedure.
- Fertilisation – Eggs are combined with sperm in a lab to achieve fertilisation.
- Embryo transfer – The fertilised embryo is transferred into the womb.
If successful, this results in pregnancy. Typically multiple cycles are needed to achieve success with IVF.
Does Endometriosis Affect Pregnancy?
For most people, endometriosis does not negatively impact pregnancy. But some studies show a higher risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and other complications in those with endometriosis. However, the vast majority of pregnancies are not affected.
Some women find their endometriosis symptoms even improve during pregnancy, likely due to hormone changes. But this relief is often temporary, and symptoms tend to return after giving birth.
Talk to your doctor about your risks before getting pregnant if possible. Contact your midwife or doctor with any concerns during pregnancy.
Getting Support for Endometriosis and Fertility Problems
Coping with endometriosis and fertility difficulties can be emotionally taxing. But help is available. Your doctor can explain your treatment options and next steps.
Connecting with others dealing with endometriosis can also provide support. Consider joining an in-person or online support group. Charities like Endometriosis UK provide resources like forums, helplines, and support networks. You don’t have to endure this alone.
Understanding the Impact of Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a complex condition that can significantly impact fertility and pregnancy. But a few key points to remember are:
- Most people with endometriosis can still conceive naturally, even if it takes longer.
- Several treatments are available if you’re struggling to get pregnant.
- Endometriosis likely won’t affect pregnancy, though studies show a slightly higher risk of complications.
- Support is available – don’t hesitate to turn to your doctor or patient groups for advice and resources.
While endometriosis presents challenges, you can still have a healthy pregnancy with proper guidance and care. Reach out for support and work closely with your healthcare providers. Patience and persistence are key. Many who battle endometriosis do go on to have children.