What is endometriosis?
The name, endometriosis, comes from the type of cells that line the uterus or endometrium, and when they grow in places outside the uterus (such as the pelvis) this is known as endometriosis.
It is quite a common condition, and tends to occur in women between 30 and their early 40s, who have had no children.
Can women with endometriosis still conceive?
Most women with endometriosis will still be able to conceive. It is mainly severe forms of the disease that lead to infertility. In these cases, early diagnosis, surgery and assisted reproductive treatment can increase fertility and pregnancy rates.
How does endometriosis lead to infertility?
When a woman with endometriosis menstruates, the endometrial cells break down – but because they are trapped inside the pelvis, and cannot escape, they form cysts filled with dark blood (known as chocolate cysts). This can cause chronic inflammatory reactions and adhesions, which may damage the fallopian tubes, distorting them and making the body resist foreign material – such as sperm. Endometriosis may also block the egg’s release by producing mucus.
How can I tell if I have endometriosis?
Diagnosis can be difficult, and sometimes there are no symptoms. Pelvic pain is the most common first sign that you may have endometriosis, but this can also be a symptom of many other disorders, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, ovarian cysts, and ectopic pregnancy.
If you experience painful periods, pain during intercourse and premenstrual spotting, and are having trouble conceiving, you should see your GP. To find out if endometriosis is the cause, an exploratory surgical procedure known as laparoscopy enables us to see inside the pelvic region to observe any endometrial growths, inflammation or adhesions. This is a minimally invasive procedure, involving a small incision in the navel, and early diagnosis will result in more focused and effective care.
Endometriosis and infertile women
As well as sometimes causing infertility, endometriosis is more common in women who are already infertile. The reasons for this are not clearly understood, but it is likely that anatomical distortion of the pelvic area and hormonal factors play a part.
We can treat endometriosis through laparoscopic surgery, at the same time as we use the technique to diagnose it. In many cases, surgery may be the only treatment needed to increase natural fertility. It can also improve the success rate of reproductive treatments such as IVF.
Contact us to find out more about endometriosis.