Women are diagnosed with endometriosis when tissue resembling the tissue lining in the uterus inexplicably starts growing outside the uterus, where it does not belong. Abnormal cell growth causing endometrial tissue to develop is typically found on the fallopian tubes, ovaries, the exterior of the uterus, and in tissue holding the uterus in place. Endometriosis less commonly affects the vagina, bladder, cervix, or bowel.
What are the Symptoms of Endometriosis?
In many cases, women do not experience symptoms and only discover they have endometriosis when they cannot get pregnant. When symptoms do occur, they often involve pelvic pain that is worse during menstruation, painful intercourse, and painful urination or bowel movements. If endometrial tissue is growing in areas high in nerve density, pain may spread into the hips and possibly the lower back.
Living with Endometriosis
If a woman with endometriosis is not trying to get pregnant, her doctor may prescribe NSAIDs or other pain-relieving medication to alleviate menstrual cramping. Hormone therapy is another way to treat endometriosis discomfort. Fluctuating hormones during a menstrual cycle can cause tissues (endometrial implants) to thicken, dissolve, and bleed. Taking birth control pills or wearing birth control patches slows tissue growth and may stop new implants from developing.
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) antagonists and agonists shrink endometrial tissues by reducing estrogen levels, preventing the release of ovarian-stimulating hormones, and eliminating menstruation. Progestin therapy is another treatment to help women live with endometriosis. This therapy involves intrauterine devices, such as contraceptive injections or progestin pills.
Minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery is another way to relieve endometriosis. This involves a surgeon removing adhesions and scarring with the aid of a tiny, laparoscopic video camera. Following laparoscopic surgery, some women may become pregnant. That all depends on how the doctor rates the severity of a woman’s endometriosis. Women with mild to minimal endometriosis (stages one and two) who are treated with laparoscopic surgery have a better chance of achieving a natural pregnancy than women with moderate to severe (stage three and four) endometriosis.
Side Effects of Living With Endometriosis
Although abnormally prolific cell growth is a characteristic of cancer, endometriosis growth is always benign. However, tissue growth may continue and expand, causing health issues like:
- Ovarian cysts, if growths block the fallopian tubes or extend into your ovaries
- Swelling and inflammation
- Formation of adhesions and scar tissue. Adhesions are a type of tough tissue that may bind organs together. Scar tissues cause pelvic pain and contribute to infertility
- Bladder and intestinal problems
Women and girls who menstruate can develop endometriosis. Most diagnoses of endometriosis are seen in adult women in their 30s and 40s. Risk factors for endometriosis include:
- Women who have never been pregnant and/or had children
- Having longer than average menstrual periods (seven days or more)
- Having shorter than average menstrual cycles (less than 27 days)
- Having a female family member with endometriosis
Fertility Drugs, IVF and Getting Pregnant with Endometriosis
For women with endometriosis who are having trouble conceiving, Viera Fertility Center offers a variety of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) to help them achieve pregnancy. Following surgery to remove endometrial implants, women may try taking fertility drugs to help improve fertility. Other options include in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intrauterine insemination (IUI).
IVF is one of the most commonly performed ARTs in the U.S. By extracting a woman’s eggs and combining the eggs with a sperm cell sample in a lab dish, fertility doctors can create an embryo, which is then transferred to the woman’s uterus at the proper time.
IUI is another popular fertility treatment done at Viera Fertility Center. This involves the transfer of washed semen into a woman’s uterus using a thin, tube-like device. Instead of the embryo originating in a laboratory dish, the embryo develops within the uterus.
Schedule an Appointment at Viera Fertility Center
If you have endometriosis and would like to find out more about fertility treatments, please contact our center today. We have helped many women with endometriosis become pregnant using fertility drugs, IVF, IUI, and other assisted reproductive technologies. Living with endometriosis does not mean you have to live with infertility. Call us today.