Endometriosis affects up to 10% of women in the United States. It’s a condition where the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. While endometriosis can impact a women's reproductive health and fertility, it’s still possible to become pregnant.
A woman’s uterine tissue, or endometrium, gets thick and bleeds each month. Normally, this blood and discarded tissue leaves the body as part of a period.
With endometriosis, the endometrium is located outside of the uterus, most commonly on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or within the pelvic region. When the tissue is located outside of the uterus, it can cause:
- Painful intercourse
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Pain during bowel movements or urination
- Excessive bleeding
Endometriosis varies from person to person. Although it can be quite debilitating, this is not the case with every person. Some women may have the disease and never know about it. About a third of women who have endometriosis find that it gets better over time. Another third find that it gets worse, while the final third find that it stays the same.
Endometriosis is a condition that can be difficult to diagnose. A person having trouble getting pregnant or experiencing symptoms associated with endometriosis should speak with their doctor. A patient’s medical and family history is important. If a first-degree relative has endometriosis, it is more likely that a woman has endometriosis.
A patient may go through a series of exams including a pelvic exam, ultrasound, or an MRI to determine if they have endometriosis. Often, a definite diagnosis of endometriosis can only be made through surgery. This is where tissue is removed and examined. However, not every patient needs to have surgery, as medical treatments are safe and effective, even without a surgical diagnosis.
It’s not known what causes endometriosis. Research is looking into possible causes such as:
- Menstrual period flow issues
- Immune system problems
- Surgery (such as a cesarean)
There are two primary treatment options when it comes to endometriosis:
- Medical management
A medical management option can allow a woman to cope with the disease, leading to reduced pain and improved quality of life. Endometriosis can also be suppressed with hormone therapy.
Surgery is an option if the symptoms aren't controlled with medications. Laparoscopy is the most common procedure for endometriosis surgery. It’s a minimally invasive procedure that requires small incisions.
It is possible for endometriosis to interfere with fertility, but that doesn’t mean you’re infertile. Endometriosis can cause problems that block your fallopian tubes or form scar tissue that makes it harder to get pregnant.
However, there are treatment options that can help. These include:
When to See a Doctor
If you have signs or symptoms of endometriosis, including painful periods or pain with intercourse, or if you are having trouble getting pregnant, talk with your doctor. An early diagnosis can result in better management of your symptoms.