Symptoms and risk factors
The endometrial cells are expected to stay within the uterus and make up the uterine lining. If a fertilized embryo is not implanted, hormones signal the uterine lining to shed these cells via menstruation. In women with endometriosis, the tissue cannot leave the body, so a range of symptoms occurs. Women commonly report severe pelvic pain, irregular periods, pain during sex, and bowel dysfunction. The research on endometriosis is limited. However, risk factors include genetics, starting a period before age 12, fibroids, polyps, and excess estrogen production have been identified.
Can endometriosis cause infertility?
Endometrial tissue can implant on the uterus and nearby organs. Over time, this can cause scarring, changing the shape and function of some organs. For the uterus and ovaries, this change in shape can lead to fertility complications. Endometriosis can also affect the ovaries, causing cysts or scarring. Ectopic pregnancies and difficulty getting pregnant are commonly reported by women with endometriosis. Up to 50% of women with this condition can become infertile. Some women can experience symptoms for years before a diagnosis is made.
Treatment for endometriosis
If a doctor confirms the issue is endometriosis, treatment options are available. Pain medication, birth control pills, and surgery can help. A doctor can ablate or burn off the endometrial tissue or cut away the tissue during the same diagnostic procedure. Treating endometriosis before pregnancy is highly recommended. These options can provide relief and improve the chances of pregnancy. Patients will often need to wait 1-2 menstrual cycles after treatment before trying to get pregnant.
The power of IVF
Some women still struggle to get pregnant as the condition may have affected the ovaries or the fallopian tubes. At this point, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is the best course of action. During IVF, the woman will take a series of fertility medications to produce multiple mature eggs. These eggs are then extracted from the ovaries and combined with sperm to create an embryo. The embryo is then surgically implanted into the uterus. Multiple cycles of IVF are sometimes required to achieve pregnancy.
Does endometriosis affect IVF success?
Studies show undergoing IVF before endometriosis treatment can result in lower success rates. For example, the rate of miscarriages with endometriosis is significantly higher than the rate seen in women without the condition. However, IVF after surgery for endometriosis can produce success rates similar to those without the condition.
A diagnosis is key
An endometriosis diagnosis is important for couples struggling to have children, as the condition could be the underlying cause of infertility. The disease affects every woman differently, but pain is a common symptom. When infertility is a challenge, IVF can increase the possibility of a healthy, happy baby.