As many as 1 in 10 women worldwide have endometriosis, a painful reproductive system condition that may impact fertility. While the cause of this condition is unknown, understanding how endometriosis may affect your own fertility can help you get pregnant, if that is your goal, and can save you a lot of hardship while trying to conceive. Let's explore this interesting condition and how it may impact your fertility.
What is endometriosis?
The endometrium is the lining of the uterus that your body produces each month when you release an egg from an ovary and then sheds during your period. While a healthy period should rid the body of this endometrial tissue, that doesn't always happen. The tissue may instead travel up the fallopian tubes that connect your ovaries to your uterus. Sometimes this tissue attaches to other organs and inside your pelvis where it continues to act like endometrial tissue, growing when the egg releases and shedding during the period even though this tissue has no biological purpose to do so outside of the uterus.
Unlike the shedding of endometrium within the uterus, tissue outside the uterus has nowhere to go when it sheds, and this causes inflammation and irritation to the organ to which it has attached. Untreated, over time, this tissue continues to thicken, fusing organs together and causing great discomfort.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
If you have endometriosis, you're likely to experience:
- Abdominal discomfort between periods
- Painful intercourse
- Extremely painful periods
- Abnormal bowel movements and urination
- Pain, which will be worse in some women, regardless of the severity of the condition
How does endometriosis impact fertility?
Endometriosis can impact fertility in many ways. The inflammation can cause scarring and tissue thickening, which may prevent the fimbria from picking up the egg, making it impossible to reach its destination. Your immune system uses inflammation to help it fight invaders in your body such as bacteria or viruses, so you won't be surprised that your body's inflammation may also kill sperm before it can fertilize that precious egg that actually makes it out of the fallopian tubes.
In other words, endometriosis blocks fertility at the pass even if that egg makes it past initial hurdles.
Does endometriosis mean you can't get pregnant?
You have two ovaries and fallopian tubes, so there is a chance that one is less impacted than the other. If a person with endometriosis does get pregnant, the pregnancy can actually help the condition in its early stages before significant scar tissue builds up. If Dr. Weyhrich believes that you have the ability to conceive and carry a child full-term, and you want to have a child, he recommends fertility treatments to assist you and your significant other in achieving pregnancy before considering more invasive procedures.
How Dr. Weyhrich can help manage your endometriosis
If pregnancy is not an option for you right now, you still have several viable options, which include:
- Over-the-counter pain medication
- Hormone therapy
- Laparoscopy to remove the wayward endometrial tissue
- Hysterectomy (as a last resort)
During a laparoscopy, Dr. Weyhrich makes a small incision into your abdomen through which a tiny camera and surgical instruments can be inserted. He then fills the abdomen with air so that he can surgically remove offending tissue and repair the area.
For many women, if a laparoscopy is necessary, fertility chances improve after the procedure because it unblocks the fallopian tubes, reduces the inflammation, and restores normal function. Laparoscopies can also remove other common causes of pelvic pain and infertility like:
- Ovarian cysts
- Other fallopian blockages
If you're experiencing the symptoms of endometriosis, know that you may still be able to conceive. Leaving endometriosis undiagnosed and untreated may lead to worsening symptoms and the need for a hysterectomy, which would completely rule out future pregnancies. Don't wait. You have options. Contact the practice for an appointment.