Endometriosis affects more than five million women in the United States. It’s a rather mysterious condition in which endometrial cells that typically comprise the lining of the uterus wind up taking residence in other parts of the reproductive tract and the body. What makes it more mysterious is that while some mild cases cause severe discomfort and pain for women, more severe cases may have very few to no side effects whatsoever. Unfortunately, it is one of the leading causes of infertility in women.
5 Questions About Endometriosis and Their Answers
You can read more about endometriosis on our blog, Overcoming Endometriosis & Infertility, to learn more about its signs, symptoms and treatments. In the meantime, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about endometriosis.
- Does having endometriosis mean that I’m infertile? No, not at all. While it is one of the leading causes of infertility, most women who have endometriosis do not have serious problems conceiving. Women who are most affected are the ones for whom errant endometrial tissue has created blockages or scar tissue on the ovaries or fallopian tubes or who have developed ovarian cysts, which can make it difficult for the egg and sperm to meet. In many cases, your doctor will be able to use an ultrasound and/or laparoscopy to see whether or not endometrial tissue is compromising your chances of fertility. If so, minor surgery can be used to remove excess endometrial tissue or lesions and to remove any scar tissue that may have developed as a result. If surgery isn’t effective, most women find that fertility treatments are effective.
- Do I need surgery to treat my endometriosis? Not necessarily. Doctors only treat endometriosis if it is causing you problems. In some cases, especially those in which endometriosis is not thought to have a negative effect on fertility, your doctor may simply recommend over-the-counter pain meds and anti-inflammatories to alleviate discomfort during flare-ups (most common when you menstruate – although some women suffer chronic discomfort). Hormonal meds, like birth control pills, GnRH agonists and danazol (which trick your body into a false menopause) will not allow you to conceive. Thus, minor surgery may be your best first option if your fertility specialist feels endometriosis is contributing to infertility.
- Will I have endometriosis for the rest of my life? It’s difficult to say. For many women, pregnancy and then menopause will provide a break from endometriosis and its more negative side effects. However, there are cases where endometriosis persists, even after menopause. If this becomes the case for you, and pain meds and/or anti-inflammatory meds do not provide satisfactory relief, your doctor may discuss a full hysterectomy. This is the only way to completely eradicate endometriosis.
- Does endometriosis have any other complications? Women with endometriosis are more prone to developing ovarian endometrioma – which are blood-filled cysts that grow on the ovaries. They vary in size from 1 millimeter to 8 centimeters and can further complicate fertility. Also, women with endometriosis have a slightly higher risk for developing ovarian cancer, typically after the age of 60. Make sure your doctor and OB/GYN know you have endometriosis so they can keep a closer eye on you after menopause.
- What fertility treatments are available for women with endometriosis? This depends on the degree of your endometriosis and your treatment history. If you have never had surgery, and your fertility specialist feels endometriosis may be the main cause, conservative surgery to remove offending endometrial tissue, cysts and/or ovaries will probably be step one. You and your partner may want to consider having a full fertility work-up so any other potential infertility issues can be identified. Your doctor will discuss additional options, like intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF), once your tests and physical examinations are complete.
Struggling to conceive after a diagnosis of infertility? Schedule a consultation with RRC. Together, we will create a step-by-step plan for your growing family.
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