Does Endometriosis Affect My Fertility?

Endometriosis affects 1 in every 10 women. It occurs when the tissue lining the womb grows in other places like the pelvis and lower abdomen. This often causes abdominal pain, painful periods, and pain during sex.

Women with endometriosis often report having a difficult time getting pregnant. Not every woman with endometriosis is impacted the same. Some women have no symptoms, for example. If you’ve been diagnosed with endometriosis and you’re planning your family, here’s what you should know about how this condition may affect your ability to become pregnant.

Overview of endometriosis

Endometriosis is a common gynecological condition among women of reproductive age. Women with endometriosis typically experience pain associated with uterine lining cells that have migrated to other parts of the body.

When you menstruate, not only does the tissue inside the uterus bleed, but the tissue outside of the womb can bleed as well. This is the most common reason for the pain you experience.

How does endometriosis happen?

Science hasn’t pinned down exactly how endometriosis develops. However, the prevailing idea is that something triggers cells outside the uterus to undergo changes and become the same kind of cells as those inside the uterus.

It’s also possible that when you have your period, some blood and tissue travel through the fallopian tubes and into other areas like the abdominal cavity. Because endometriosis tends to run in families, genes are likely to play a role in your susceptibility to endometriosis.

Endometriosis can make it difficult to become pregnant

It’s important to know that endometriosis does not directly cause infertility. However, fertility problems are linked to endometriosis, and women with the condition have a significantly harder time becoming pregnant than women without it.

Up to 50% of women with endometriosis experience fertility issues, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. How does endometriosis affect fertility?

Inflammation impacts egg fertilization

The uterine lining cells that grow outside the womb triggers inflammation and it’s this inflammatory process that can interfere with fertility. The body produces proteins called cytokines as part of the inflammatory process. These substances secreted by the immune system have various effects on other cells.

In women with endometriosis, pro-inflammatory cytokines cause chronic inflammation that can slow down sperm and make it harder for sperm to reach and fertilize an egg.

Scarring can block fallopian tubes

Inflammation caused by endometriosis can cause a number of changes that impact fertility. Most importantly, it can cause the texture of the peritoneum, which is usually fine and transparent, to become thick. It can also cause scarring that can block or partially block the fallopian tubes, preventing sperm from reaching an egg.

Endometriosis linked to ovulation failure

The changes to the reproductive system caused by endometriosis-induced inflammation can cause ovarian failure. This means that some women with endometriosis fail to ovulate, causing eggs to become trapped inside the ovaries. The result is difficulty becoming pregnant or problems carrying a baby to term.

Overcoming fertility issues in women with endometriosis

If you are having trouble getting pregnant, there are medications and treatments that can help. Treating the endometriosis itself can improve fertility. Surgery to remove endometriosis lesions outside of the uterus can improve your chances of getting pregnant. In vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination are reproductive technologies that can help women with endometriosis overcome difficulties getting pregnant. Your provider can help you decide which option is right for you.

Through her Greenwood, IN practice, gynecologist Dr. Lori Davidson provides compassionate care to women throughout all life stages. If you have endometriosis and are thinking of becoming pregnant, Dr. Davidson can discuss options to treat your condition and improve your odds of successfully becoming pregnant.

For more information call to schedule an appointment with Dr. Davidson.

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