As many as 10% of American women suffer from endometriosis, a chronic condition in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside of the uterus. Many women know that endometriosis can cause severe menstrual cramps, abdominal pain, and irregular bleeding.
However, what is not as well-known is that endometriosis can make it harder to conceive. In fact, up to half of all women with endometriosis will have problems with fertility.
Paul W. Morrison, M.D., draws on years of experience treating endometriosis and the fertility problems it can cause at his practice in Newburgh, Indiana, which serves the Evansville area.
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with endometriosis or you’re having trouble getting pregnant, here’s what you should know about the link between these two issues.
The uterus is lined with a layer called the endometrium. Every month, the endometrium grows thicker in response to a woman’s shifting hormones, preparing the uterus for possible pregnancy. If pregnancy doesn’t occur, the endometrial tissue sheds during menstruation.
Endometriosis happens when endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus. These growths are called implants, and they can form in many areas, including:
- The outer wall of the uterus
- The fallopian tubes
- The ovaries
- The intestine
- Other areas in your belly, pelvis, or (rarely) chest cavity
Because they’re made of the same tissue as the endometrial tissue inside your uterus, they respond to hormones in the same way, causing widespread pain and other problems during different stages of the menstrual cycle.
However, there’s one big difference: While the endometrial tissue in the uterus sheds monthly through the vagina, implant tissue has nowhere to go. That means it becomes trapped inside the body, causing even more pain, inflammation, and scarring.
Doctors aren’t sure what causes endometriosis, but they feel that in some women, there may be a genetic component. Other theories suggest that tissue migrates through blood or lymphatic fluid, or that it could be transferred to another area during an abdominal procedure, such as a Cesarean section, for example.
How endometriosis can affect fertility
The location of the implants and the extent or severity of the disease are major factors in determining whether you’ll have problems with fertility.
For example, if implants grow on the ovaries or fallopian tubes, resulting inflammation and scar tissue may interfere with the normal release of the egg (ovum). Implants that extend into the uterine wall can affect its normal function, making it harder to conceive.
Endometriosis may also affect your hormonal balance or immune system, causing your uterus to become “inhospitable” to conception. Inflammation caused by the implants can also make it harder to conceive.
Fortunately, endometriosis treatment can improve the chances of conception for many women. The key is to seek treatment as early as possible with a provider experienced in endometriosis treatment.
Endometriosis affects women differently. We tailor each treatment plan based on the patient’s symptoms, underlying health, reproductive goals, and other factors.
Many women benefit from medications aimed at balancing hormone levels and relieving inflammation and other symptoms. Other times, removing the implants is the best way to improve fertility and reduce painful symptoms.
Dr. Morrison is skilled in minimally invasive surgical techniques for endometriosis. Depending on the number of implants you have and other factors — such as whether or not you plan to have children — he may recommend additional procedures to remove tissue damaged by the implants. That could include removing the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or uterus.
Endometriosis takes a major toll on the women whose lives it affects. Prompt treatment is the best way to reduce symptoms, improve fertility, and avoid other complications in the future. To learn more about endometriosis and infertility treatments, call 812-490-5200 or book an appointment online today.