Endometriosis is a disorder that affects the reproductive system and can cause pain and infertility. However, it is still possible for people with endometriosis to become pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy. There are various treatment options available for endometriosis, and it is important to learn about how this condition can affect fertility.
How does endometriosis affect infertility?
Endometriosis is a common reproductive health condition in which the tissue that lines the uterus grows outside of the uterus. This can occur in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and other areas of the pelvis and abdominal cavity. Endometriosis is associated with fertility problems, with estimates suggesting that it affects 24-50% of women experiencing infertility. The exact way in which endometriosis causes fertility issues is not fully understood, but it may be due to distorted anatomy of pelvic organs, hormonal and ovulatory abnormalities, or changes in the endometrium that affect the ability of the egg and sperm to successfully fertilize and implant. In some cases, endometriosis can also cause tissue to grow in other parts of the body. Although endometriosis growths are not cancerous, they can lead to pain and inflammation and make it difficult for individuals to become pregnant.
Chances of getting pregnant with endometriosis
While there is a connection between endometriosis and infertility, most women with endometriosis are still able to conceive. Approximately 70% of women with mild to moderate endometriosis are able to become pregnant without treatment. For women with endometriosis who are planning to become pregnant, it is advisable to see a fertility specialist early on, as it may be easier to conceive at a younger age. If you are experiencing pain due to endometriosis but are not trying to get pregnant, your gynecologist may recommend non-hormonal or hormonal treatment options to manage the pain, such as laparoscopic surgery. This surgery can make it easier to get pregnant, but it may also affect the quality and quantity of your eggs, particularly if you have endometriosis. Egg freezing is another option for women with endometriosis who may want to start a family in the future, as it can increase the chances of pregnancy. The number of eggs you produce decreases over time and endometriosis may worsen, so freezing eggs can be a good way to preserve fertility for the future.
How to get pregnant with endometriosis
Pregnancy may be difficult for individuals with endometriosis, but it is still possible. The best course of action will depend on the timing and severity of the endometriosis, and speaking with a fertility specialist is an important part of the process. Before starting any treatment, it is important to undergo a full infertility work-up to identify any other issues or health problems that may impact fertility, such as male fertility problems or the age of the individual. The infertility work-up will also help determine the best treatment options, which may include medical treatment, surgery, or assisted reproduction. Hormonal treatment to suppress ovarian function is not effective at improving fertility according to guidelines from the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, but operative laparoscopy may increase the chances of becoming pregnant according to Cochrane Reviews. Assisted reproduction options include superovulation and intrauterine insemination, in-vitro fertilization (IVF), and direct IVF. It is also important to focus on overall health by exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a balanced diet to increase the chances of carrying a healthy pregnancy to term.
Endometriosis & Pregnancy
During pregnancy, the symptoms of endometriosis may improve or remain unchanged. Pregnancy can help alleviate symptoms for some individuals due to the increased levels of progesterone that circulate during this time. In fact, progestin, a synthetic form of progesterone, is often used as a treatment for endometriosis. If symptoms improve during pregnancy, this relief may continue while breastfeeding, but once periods return, symptoms may also return. Pregnancy can also increase the risk of complications for individuals with endometriosis, including pregnancy loss, preterm birth, placenta previa, gestational diabetes, and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. If you are experiencing pain from endometriosis during pregnancy, there are some at-home measures that may help, such as warm water baths, prenatal yoga, and fiber-rich foods to prevent constipation. It is important to talk to your doctor about any concerns or symptoms you may have during pregnancy.
Although endometriosis is a chronic and potentially painful condition, it is still possible to get pregnant. It is important to discuss your options with a doctor or infertility specialist as early as possible to determine the best plan for you.