Building Awareness During Endometriosis Awareness Month
Spotlighting the Connection Between Infertility and Endometriosis
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a painful, chronic disease that affects at least 6.3 million women in the U.S. and millions across the globe. Approximately 35 to 50 percent of women with infertility also have endometriosis. Building awareness of this disease is critical in aiding effective diagnoses and infertility treatment.
Each month when women menstruate, they shed the endometrial lining found in their uterus. When the endometrial tissue normally found in the uterus grows outside the uterus and in other places of the body, it is known as endometriosis.
Endometrial growths have been found on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, on the outside of the uterus, lining the pelvic cavity and between the vagina and rectum. While rare, growths have also been found in the arm, thigh and lung. Each month, endometrial tissue continues to break down and shed as it would during a normal menstrual cycle. Without the ability to drain from the body as it would in normal menstruation, inflammation and pain result.
Endometriosis affects fertility, bowel function, gynecological health and most importantly, quality of life. The cause of endometriosis remains unknown, as does a permanent cure. Research continues to focus on establishing the underlying cause, genetic patterns and refined treatment options.
Doctors are now able to alleviate symptoms as well as increase fertility once a diagnosis has been determined.
Pain during sexual activity
Painful urination or bowel movements during menstruation
Gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, constipation and diarrhea
Recurrent yeast infections
Scarring and adhesions from endometriosis can restrict movement of the ovaries, change the position of the fallopian tubes and ovaries as well as block the fallopian tubes. Endometriosis can also increase production of prostaglandins, hormones that affect fertility.
To improve fertility, doctors can surgically remove adhesions and scar tissue in the female reproductive system. Surgical options are not always necessary to achieve pregnancy, however. Stimulation of the ovaries with fertility medications and in vitro fertilization will often overcome the impact of endometriosis on fertility. IVF allows doctors to bypass any damaged tissue due to endometriosis.
Approximately 60 to 70 percent of women with endometriosis conceive and not all individuals with endometriosis are infertile. I have treated hundreds of patients who have overcome infertility due to endometriosis and have had happy, healthy children. Rest assured, many of us in the field of reproductive medicine are working tirelessly to increase success rates through scientific study and further advancement in technique.