If you’ve been having difficulty becoming pregnant naturally and you’ve never been tested for endometriosis, it may be time.
Endometriosis is a common cause of female infertility, but it’s often undiagnosed. That’s because endometriosis symptoms mimic PMS and other female-related conditions that do not affect fertility.
Some of the symptoms associated with endometriosis include:
- Pelvic pain, especially right before and during menstruation.
- Pain during sexual intercourse.
- Pain during yearly pelvic examinations.
- Pain during bowel movements.
Obviously, the type and intensity of pain experienced by women varies. For some, it’s nagging; for others, it’s excruciating. And because endometriosis is so undiagnosed, numerous individuals who have female infertility issues don’t ever realize the true cause of their fertility problems.
That’s one of the reasons it’s so critical to choose a reproductive health specialist, like those at Philadelphia and Reading Pennsylvania area’s Reproductive Science Institute (RSI), to examine your particular case. If it is determined through testing that you have endometriosis, your fertility specialist may recommend assisted reproductive techniques (ART) such as IVF and IUI to help you get pregnant.
Remember – the first step is diagnosis. From there, treatment can begin.
- Over 5.5 million American women are estimated to have endometriosis.
- About 30-40% of females with endometriosis suffer from infertility.
- Endometriosis is one of the top three causes of infertility in America.
Does endometriosis cause infertility?
Endometriosis, a condition where the endometrium spreads beyond where it is typically found in a woman’s body, affects over 5 million females throughout America and Canada. For some people, the result is mild irritation; for others, it’s severe pain. And for many, it’s infertility.
In fact, many women do not realize they have endometriosis until they have difficulty conceiving naturally. It’s when they are seeking treatment for their reproductive concerns that their endometriosis is discovered.
So how can you tell if you might have endometriosis? Although the only way to know for sure is via examination by a medical professional, you may be at risk if you:
Have a mother with endometriosis. (The condition can be passed down generation to generation.)
Have periods that last longer than 8 days.
Have periods that occur more frequently than once every 27 days.
Experience pelvic pain during periods, during sex, during urination (while menstruation is occurring) and/or during bowel movements (while menstruation is occurring).
Are dealing with infertility. If you think you might have endometriosis, it’s important to get checked. And if you are having difficulty getting pregnant naturally, you’ll want to rule out endometriosis as a possible contributor.
How Does Endometriosis Cause Infertility
Endometriosis is a relatively common disorder that afflicts approximately 5.5 million American women at any one time. A disorder affecting the genitalia, endometriosis is more than just an annoyance. In fact, females with endometriosis typically experience such symptoms as pain (e.g., severe cramps, intense bowel movements, discomfort during sex), very heavy vaginal bleeding, fatigue and, in a third of patients, infertility.
Ironically, infertility that stems from endometriosis may be misdiagnosed because not all women with the condition realize they suffer from it. Many simply assume that their pain is a “woman problem” related to menstruation rather than a problem that can cost them their ability to conceive. (This isn’t surprisingly, truly; for many females, endometriosis pain worsens during periods. Thus, the physical distress would seem to be connected to monthly bleeding rather than a condition of its own.)
Endometriosis typically worsens as women age, so early diagnosis is the best way to ensure that infertility treatments are attempted as soon as possible. However, even if a female with endometriosis is not diagnosed until later in life AND has been having fertility issues, she can still become pregnant through assisted reproductive techniques (ART).
Two of the most common treatments used to help those with endometriosis conceive are IUI (intrauterine insemination) and IVF (in vitro fertilization). Because these procedures position embryos directly into the woman’s womb, it becomes unnecessary for her body to go through all the other steps naturally associated with conception. Therefore, her chances of having a successful pregnancy are increased.
New diagnostic tool for endometriosis being studied
The doctor who developed the Laparoscopic Supracervical Hysterectomy procedure, which eliminates endometriosis while keeping the cervix in place, is working on a variation of the diagnostic procedure that uses new light technology to better pinpoint areas of endometriosis and therefore remove it more efficiently and effectively.
Dr. Tom Lyons, medical director of the Center for Women’s Care & Reproductive Surgery in Atlanta, is working with Dr. Chuck Miller in Chicago and Dr. Herman Barreuto in Baltimore to study whether the use of different colors of light helps detect endometriosis better than the traditional white light of the laparoscope.
The FDA-approved diagnostic study is using Olympus’s Narrow Band Imaging (NBI).
“We will first look at the disease area with white light, marking areas that we see is diseased with laser dots, then with NBI to see if that expands our visualization of diseased areas,” Dr. Lyons said in a recent press release. “With inflammation from endo, an area will be more vascularized (more blood vessels) and possibly we can more easily detect disease. We will then biopsy the area.”
We’re excited to see what this study finds in terms of better diagnostic services for women with endometriosis.