Endometriosis is a much more prevalent issue than many people might think. In fact, fewer than 1/3 of women know what endometriosis is, despite it affecting approximately one out of every ten women in the United States.
Endometriosis occurs when uterine tissue begins to grow outside of the uterus. Because this tissue responds to a woman’s menstrual cycle, symptoms can be confused with period pain. Since the tissue has no way of leaving the body, lesions, scar tissue and inflammation can occur. All of these symptoms could potentially lead to infertility.
Do I Have Endometriosis?
If you are having trouble getting pregnant and you experience any of the following symptoms, your infertility could be due to endometriosis.
- Pain before and during your menstrual cycle.
- Pain during sexual intercourse.
- Painful urination.
- Pain during bowel movements.
- Chronic fatigue.
To determine if you have endometriosis, your doctor may perform a laparoscopy. During this procedure, a tiny camera will be inserted into the abdomen and the doctor will examine the internal organs. The goal is to find out if any abnormal endometrial tissue is present, and determine the size and location of the issue.
How Does Endometriosis Affect Fertility?
While the reason is widely debated, research shows that women with endometriosis tend to have lower fecundity, or the ability to produce children. This fecundity is similar to that of a woman of an older age, putting someone with endometriosis, regardless of age, at risk of becoming infertile.
Most cases of endometriosis are mild, and many women with a mild form of the condition are still fertile. In women with severe endometriosis, it is more likely that there will be pelvic scarring, damage to the eggs / ovaries and distortion of pelvic anatomy, which can cause infertility.
Can Endometriosis Be Treated?
Treatments vary on a case-by-case basis depending on the severity of the issue, the disease location, the age of the woman and the presence of other symptoms. But, in general, endometriosis will be treated with medication, surgery or a combination of both.
For mild cases, drug treatment can keep symptoms under control and surgical removal of lesions may help temporarily. But unfortunately, no link between these treatments and improved fertility have been found.
For severe cases, studies have found that these treatments can slightly increase a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant.
What are my Options for Becoming Pregnant?
When traditional methods for becoming pregnant fail, there are other options. Ovarian stimulation or intrauterine insemination can be successful for some women with mild endometriosis, but those methods tend to fail when women have severe symptoms. In severe cases, in vitro fertilization is often the right method.
Learn about other potential causes of female infertility.
Find out more about infertility testing & treatment options.