Infertility can be a Symptom of Endometriosis, but Pregnancy may be Possible with Treatment
Endometriosis, an often-painful condition experienced by millions of women and girls in their child-bearing years all over the world, happens when the tissue that lines the uterus also grows outside the uterus. Usually this tissue, called endometrium, is found in the abdomen, but can occur in other places in the body.
Just like the tissue inside your uterus, the misplaced endometrial tissue outside the uterus gets thicker, breaks down and sheds during your menstrual cycle. However, because it has no way of leaving the body, it can cause internal bleeding, inflammation, cysts or scar tissue.
Symptoms of endometriosis can include:
- Painful periods (both before and during)
- Heavy periods or bleeding between periods
- Pain with urination or bowel movements, especially during your period
- Pain during or after intercourse
- Gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, nausea or constipation
- Women with endometriosis may also suffer from chemical sensitivities, allergies and more frequent yeast infections
Some women don’t experience any of these symptoms, or may have just one or two very mild symptoms. Because many of these symptoms can also be caused by other illnesses, and because the severity of pain experienced by different women varies greatly, endometriosis may be misdiagnosed at first. To confirm an endometriosis diagnosis, your doctor may conduct a pelvic exam, an ultrasound, or laparoscopy.
For some women, the only symptom of endometriosis is difficulty getting pregnant; between one-third and one-half of women with endometriosis have trouble conceiving.
Is pregnancy possible with endometriosis?
Many women with endometriosis worry about whether they’ll be able to become pregnant and carry a baby to term. When endometriosis affects the ovaries or fallopian tubes, normal reproduction can be disrupted.
About one-third of women with endometriosis are able to get pregnant without any fertility treatment. For others, infertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization or hormonal treatments may be effective non-surgical options.
What causes endometriosis?
No one definite cause of endometriosis has been identified. You may be at higher risk for developing endometriosis if your mother, sister or another close family member had it, if you have never given birth before, or if you have a history of pelvic infections.
What treatment options are available for endometriosis?
Treatment may include over-the-counter pain medications, hormone therapy (such as hormonal contraceptives), or surgical treatment. For treatment at home, some women find comfort in warm baths or heating pads. Getting regular exercise can help, too.
However, if you are trying to get pregnant, contraceptives and surgeries such as hysterectomies are not options. When you’re trying to conceive, it may make sense to explore whether you are a candidate for surgery that might remove the endometriosis while still preserving your uterus and ovaries. In vitro fertilization may be recommended as another alternative to try to help you conceive.
Pregnancy will not cure endometriosis, although it may temporarily halt symptoms. Likewise, when you hit menopause, unless you are taking estrogen, symptoms of endometriosis should end permanently.
An endometriosis diagnosis does not mean that you will not be able to have a baby. Although there are no guarantees, there may be treatment options that can help you both get relief from your symptoms and become pregnant.