How Endometriosis Affects Fertility
Endometriosis is a female reproductive disorder that occurs when tissue normally lining the inside of a woman’s uterus (endometrium) is found on the outside of the uterus. Endometriosis is a fairly common condition. About 5.5 million women in the U.S. have endometriosis – though they may not know it. Symptoms of endometriosis can often be confused with particularly painful PMS symptoms, such as:
Dysmenorrhea (intense, painful cramps during your period)
Heavy menstrual bleeding (abnormal uterine bleeding)
Dyspareunia (pain during intercourse)
Since these symptoms are similar to PMS, many women are likely not to have visited their doctor to discuss any pain or abnormal bleeding because they feel that this is just a normal part of monthly menstruation. In fact, for about 30% of women with endometriosis, their only symptom is infertility – which of course is only discovered when attempts to conceive are unsuccessful.
Diagnosing endometriosis will involve a thorough review of the patient’s symptoms and menstrual history. A pelvic exam will be performed, as well as a laparoscopy, which will allow your doctor to view the abdominal cavity and ovaries. If tissue is found outside of the uterus instead of in the lining or if adhesions are present, then endometriosis will be confirmed.
**How does endometriosis affect fertility?**
Aside from unpleasant symptoms, infertility is a potential side effect of endometriosis for up to 30-50% of those experiencing the condition. There are a few ways that endometriosis can affect fertility:
Scarring and adhesions from endometriosis tissue in a woman’s fallopian tubes can block sperm from meeting the egg.
Impaired chance of implantation of egg
Poorer/lowered egg quality
A distorted pelvic anatomy
How is endometriosis treated?
****Endometriosis treatment consists of two parts: (1) surgical removal of tissue and/or adhesions that are blocking the function of the fallopian tubes or (2) monitoring of hormone levels via medication that will lower/block the estrogen that endometriosis needs in order to grow (think: birth control). However, this is a general treatment approach, patients should note that each treatment plan may vary depending on the individual diagnosis and what your specialist believes is the best course of treatment for you.