Endometriosis is a widespread condition affecting more than 10% of American women of childbearing age and about 176 million women worldwide. There are several symptoms and complications as a result of endometriosis.
One of the most common complications of endometriosis is trouble getting pregnant. About a third to half of women with endometriosis have difficulty conceiving. Fortunately, there are many treatment options that help women with endometriosis have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. At Gynecology and Obstetrics Medical Group in Long Beach, California, Essam Taymour, MD, FACOG, has extensive experience diagnosing and treating endometriosis. Here he explains this common condition, its symptoms, impact, and treatment options.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is when the tissue that lines the inside of your uterus, also called the endometrium, grows outside your uterus. The tissue can grow on your ovaries, fallopian tubes, bowel, bladder, ligaments, and other pelvic organs.
During a normal menstrual cycle, your endometrium thickens and eventually breaks down into blood, which is your period. With endometriosis, the tissue outside your uterus also thickens, breaks down and turns to blood but does not exit your body in the same way the lining in your uterus does.
This blood buildup causes inflammation and irritation of the surrounding tissue.
Symptoms of endometriosis
One of the first signs of endometriosis is pain during menstruation. Other signs include:
- Pain during intercourse
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Bleeding in between menstrual cycles
- Chronic fatigue
- Pain with bowel movements or urination
- Gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
How endometriosis affects fertility
Having endometriosis does not mean you will definitely have problems getting pregnant. But it does mean that the likelihood of having fertility problems are higher than if you didn’t have the condition. Also, the more severe your endometriosis is, the more challenges you will have getting pregnant.
In a normal pregnancy, an egg is released from the ovary, travels through the fallopian tube, and eventually becomes fertilized by sperm. This fertilized egg then attaches itself to the uterine wall and starts to grow. With endometriosis, blood-filled cysts often form, blocking the egg and sperm’s journey at several points.
Endometriosis can interfere with the fertilization process in the following ways:
- A cyst can obstruct the fallopian tube entryway
- Patches of endometriosis can distort the shape of the pelvis, making it harder for the egg and sperm to unite
- The sperm or egg may be damaged
- Inflammation can impact the quality of the egg
- The uterine lining becomes distorted so that the embryo can’t implant
- The immune system can attack the embryo
Endometriosis also increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy because the embryo can get caught in the fallopian tube and not attach to the uterus.
Endometriosis treatment options
After a diagnosis, Dr. works with you to create a comprehensive treatment plan based on your health, your family history, and your symptoms to relieve your endometriosis issues and help you get pregnant. Treatment options include:
- Hormone therapy
- Prescription medications
- Laparoscopic surgery
For endometriosis and all of your gynecological health care, contact Dr. Taymour to make an appointment.