According to the Office on Women’s Health, about 6.5 million women in the United States have endometriosis. It’s a common issue that causes pain, bleeding between periods, and in rarer cases, infertility or digestive issues.
Dr. Parisa Pourzand and her staff know that being common doesn’t mean that endometriosis is a small problem. We’ve helped many women better understand their condition, find the most appropriate treatment, and continue to live active, fulfilling lives — including becoming pregnant.
Before we talk about how endometriosis can affect your chances of becoming pregnant, we should talk about the condition. Your uterus is lined with a tissue called the endometrium. Each month, through your menstrual cycle, that lining becomes thicker and when you begin your period, it sheds away.
If you have endometriosis, that tissue grows in places it shouldn’t be, such as on the outside of your uterus, on your fallopian tubes or ovaries, or other areas where it has no way to shed away. The result is often painful menstrual cramps, pain in your lower back or pelvis, pain during or after sex, and painful bowel movements. You may also have bleeding or spotting between your periods, or issues with your digestion.
It’s certainly not impossible for women with endometriosis to become pregnant, though it may be more difficult. Researchers aren’t completely sure why endometriosis can impact fertility, but it may have to do with the endometrium growing in places that prevents your egg from traveling to your uterus so it can be fertilized. For example, if the endometrium is growing in your fallopian tube, the egg may be blocked.
Another possibility is that your body perceives the egg as an intruder and attacks. Or, the issue could be with the endometrium itself. When an egg is fertilized, it implants in your endometrium, which nourishes it. If there’s an issue with the endometrium, the egg may not be able to properly implant, or it may not get the nourishment it needs to survive.
If you have unprotected sex regularly for six months and don’t get pregnant, you’re considered infertile, whether you have an underlying condition like endometriosis or not. It’s more common for women who have endometriosis to have difficulty becoming pregnant than women who don’t have it.
Several treatment options are available, and the best one for you depends on several different things. For example, Dr. Pourzand is likely to suggest a different treatment approach if you’re older than 35. Another important factor is whether you have minimal, mild, moderate, or severe endometriosis.
Some of the treatments that may work to help a woman with endometriosis become pregnant include medication, laparoscopic surgery to remove the patches of endometriosis or cysts, and in vitro fertilization.
If you’re trying to get pregnant and struggling, or you have endometriosis and know you want to become pregnant, schedule an appointment to discuss your situation with Dr. Pourzand. She can provide specific advice based on your circumstances. You may be surprised by the options available to you.