Endometriosis can be a challenging and painful condition, usually resulting in agonizing menstrual periods. Endometriosis gets its name from endometrial lining (the uterine lining that builds up and is shed each cycle). What happens in a woman who doesn`t have endometriosis is that each month, her hormones tell her ovaries to produce and release an egg, then her uterus builds a thick lining to support a fertilized egg implanting. Each cycle, when the egg doesn’t get fertilized, the egg and uterine lining are shed through the vagina, and the cycle starts again!
A woman with endometriosis experiences this cycle differently. What happens is that, when the uterus builds up the endometrial lining, some of the other guts want to get in on the action as well, and start building endometrial lining too. This lining can grow on the fallopian tubes, ovaries, the outside of the uterus, even to the bowel, bladder, cervix, vagina, and vulva, or to other organs. When the hormones cue the uterus to expel the uterine lining, all the other uterine lining everywhere else inside a woman’s body wants to be expelled too, but has no place to go. Thus, periods for women with endometriosis can be extremely painful. The end result of this could be internal bleeding, scarring, bowel issues, and possible infertility.
Thinking you may have endometriosis? Some common symptoms of this condition are:
- extremely painful periods
- painful sex
- painful urination and BM’s during your period
- GI issues like vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation
- frequent yeast infections
Endometriosis can be a tough diagnosis to receive, and you may be filled with many questions. Will I be able to get pregnant? Will my periods always be this painful? Will my sex life ever be normal? Is there anything I can do to prevent future outbreaks? How can I best manage this condition?
The good news: there is a fair chance you will be able to get pregnant. Scientists are not entirely sure of the effect of endometriosis on fertility. If you have mild endometriosis, you have an 80% chance of conceiving within the same amount of time as a woman without endometriosis, although again, there doesn’t seem to be a clear explanation for this. If you don’t get pregnant after a while, it’s worth it to take a trip to the doctor. She can prescribe Clomid (clomifene), which might increase your chances of ovulating and of getting pregnant. There may be other hormonal therapies that may be helpful to you in conceiving, and it is best to talk to your doctor about your options.
Another option is to have an abdominal ultrasound to see if any of the extra endometrial tissue is interfering with your fertility. If it looks like there may be some extra tissue loitering around your uterus (like teens outside a convenience store), an option for you may be to take the tissue out (like the owner of the convenience store shooing the kids away!). This would likely be done laparoscopically, with minimal pain and recovery time.
After each of these interventions, you will likely be told to try for a few months to see if you are able to conceive. I hope that you are, but if you aren’t, you can go back to the doc and you can try something else!
Lastly, intrauterine insemination (IUI) may be an option to increase fertility. IUI is a procedure wherein sperm are “shot” into a woman’s cervix.
Women can live a good life with endometriosis, and most are even able to conceive. As with most other health challenges, your best bet is to maintain open communication with your care providers.