Questions have risen regarding the connection of endometriosis and infertility. Does having endometriosis lead to infertility? Or is infertility a risk factor for endometriosis?
These are questions needing answers and one might learn more by reading the information regarding endometriosis and infertility below.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a disease condition where a uterine tissue (endometrium) spreads to areas where it should not be found like the ovaries, fallopian tubes, pelvic cavity lining, bowel, or elsewhere in the abdomen.
It is a common condition that occurs in 10 out of every 100 women, so it is rather very common. The disease can be classified into three: mild, moderate, and severe endometriosis.
Risk factors to getting endometriosis
One is placed at risk of getting endometriosis if any of the following is present:
- never gave birth
- menstruation of more than 7 days in length
- a menstrual cycle of 27 days or less
- a member of the family has endometriosis
- abnormal medical conditions that prevent having a normal menstruation
- previous infection that caused tissue damage in the pelvic cavity
Signs and symptoms of endometriosis
The most common symptom of endometriosis is pain which is similar to dysmenorrhea and occurs during menstruation. This pain can increase over time. It is concentrated on the pelvic area or the lower back.
Those with mild cases might experience excruciating pain while those with severe cases might feel less or no pain at all. Therefore, the intensity of pain is not a measure of how extensive the disease is.
Other women might also experience the following:
- painful intercourse
- painful urination during menstruation
- spotting in between periods
- general tiredness
- nausea during menstruation
- infertility or inability to get pregnant
- constant, long term lower back pain
Experiencing any of the symptoms above does not immediately prove that one has endometriosis. Some women do not experience symptoms and have the disease. One has to consult a gynecologist or any general physician to rule out the possibilities.
How is endometriosis diagnosed?
Based on the history of the woman, the doctor might already have suspicions of endometriosis. The disease can be diagnosed through certain procedures like the following:
#1: Physical Exam: Through the palpation of the pelvic area physicians determine whether there are any growths or scar tissues. However, smaller cysts will not be found using this method.
#2: Ultrasound: This is more definitive than the physical exam. It provides information about presence of endometriosis, including the size, shape, and location. This provides the physician with information and possible plan of action.
#3: Laparoscopy: This is a surgical procedure where a certain instrument with a camera tip is inserted in the abdominal area to view its present condition.
How endometriosis and infertility are linked
Infertility, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is a condition where a woman (<35 years old) is unable to bear a child after 2 years of unprotected, regular intercourse with her husband. For women above 35, infertility is being unable to produce a child after 6 months of regular, unprotected intercourse.
Infertility is caused by problems and conditions that are damaging to the reproductive system. With endometriosis, this damage is possible. Severe endometriosis, for example, causes a scar in the pelvis and changes the shape of organs involved in reproduction.
Endometrial tissues can block the ovaries and cause them to adhere to the intestines, or pelvic wall. In other instances, the ovaries can produce low quality and insufficient eggs or become completely unable to do so.
Based on statistics offered by the Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago, 30-40% of women who are infertile have endometriosis. However, this is not always the case. Women with mild endometriosis were still able to bear children and remain fertile as stated in statistical data.
Right now, research is being continued to determine which came first in this link. Did the endometriosis cause the infertility? Or did the infertility or delayed pregnancy, cause the occurence of endometriosis?
If you have endometriosis today, you should seek the guidance of your doctor so he can tell you more about your options. Treatment for endometriosis is always individualized since it is dependent on the size and location of the problem. Factors like age, severity, infertile period, and amount of pain are also considered.
Pain medications are usually given and surgical procedures are also put into consideration. Whether or not these treatments could help in treating infertility, that is still not fully proven. But there are already recent studies that try to address this problem.