Endometriosis and Fertility: What You Need to Know-image

Endometriosis and Fertility: What You Need to Know

A common symptom of endometriosis is fertility issues. Up to 50% of people with endometriosis will struggle to conceive, with the causes still relatively unknown. Here take a deep dive into what you need to know about your fertility if you have diagnosed or suspected endometriosis. Quick facts: What is endometriosis? Endometriosis is a reproductive health condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other places. This is called endometrial tissue. This tissue can grow in the ovaries and fallopian tubes and can cause painful symptoms.  It’s one of the most common reproductive health conditions. 1 in 10 women and those assigned female-at-birth (AFAB) will develop endometriosis, yet its definitive cause is still unknown.  As a long-term condition, endometriosis can significantly impact some people’s lives. One of the most common concerns is how does endometriosis affect fertility? Will endometriosis affect my fertility? In short, it might. Fertility problems are common in those with endometriosis, with 30-50% experiencing fertility problems (1). But having endometriosis does not automatically mean you will have fertility problems—every case is different. It will depend on the severity of your symptoms and any structural or hormonal issues you may have.  Is it possible to get pregnant with endometriosis? Yes, it’s possible to get pregnant with endometriosis. However, you may experience difficulty getting pregnant. Those with endometriosis have a lower chance of getting pregnant with each monthly cycle (2). This can result in it taking longer for people with endometriosis to conceive (3).  Infertility is also common in those with endometriosis, and in subfertile (failure to conceive after one year of trying) women the prevalence seems to be considerably higher, ranging from 20% to 50%, but it varies with time and age (1). How does endometriosis affect fertility? Again, not necessarily. But those with endometriosis are at an increased risk of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy and other obstetric complications compared to those without (4). How does endometriosis affect fertility? Exactly why and how endometriosis affects fertility is still unknown. But here are the latest theories of possible links and causes.  Structural issues One of the ways endometriosis is likely to affect fertility is by distorting the position of reproductive organs. Growth of endometrial tissue and adhesions around the uterus and Fallopian tubes can cause this distortion. In turn, this may block mature eggs from reaching the uterus to be fertilised. The risk of blocked Fallopian tubes, in particular, increases in the more advanced stages of endometriosis.  Endometriomas The presence of cysts on your ovaries, called endometriomas, could also affect fertility and ovulation. Endometriomas can damage ovarian tissue and the precious ovarian follicles which house immature eggs.  Immune reaction Another theory is an immune reaction to endometrial tissue growing outside the uterus. This is because this tissue is recognised as ‘foreign’ to these parts of the body. The immune system responds by attacking it, causing inflammation. Inflammation leads to harmful toxins which may affect Fallopian tube function, sperm function and egg quality (5). Womb reciprocity There is also debate about whether endometriosis affects the receptivity of the womb to a fertilised egg. However, there is currently no conclusive evidence to prove this theory.  Painful sex Painful sex is one of the symptoms associated with endometriosis. Pain during or after intercourse can negatively impact your sex life and make the trying-to-conceive process difficult. Can treating endometriosis improve fertility? Various treatments for endometriosis that aim to improve fertility. The right ones for you will depend on the location and severity of your endometriosis and what your symptoms are.  One treatment that aims to improve fertility is laparoscopic surgery. This is surgery to remove the endometrial tissue deposits and adhesions. It aims to free the pelvic organs of any structural issues or blockages and reduce inflammation.  For people with endometrioma, laparoscopic ovarian cystectomy can remove the endometriosis-related cysts on the ovaries (6). This has been shown to lower the recurrence rate of both cysts and pain symptoms.  However, there are risks associated with any surgery. For example, ovarian cystectomy can also negatively affect ovarian reserve by the removal of healthy tissue.  It’s important to discuss the potential for surgery with a specialist. And to explore the individual risks. How can I improve my chances of conceiving with endometriosis? If you’re trying to conceive with endometriosis, there are options to improve your chances. These include expectant management and assisted reproductive techniques (ARTs).  Expectant management  This is for heterosexual people who are trying to conceive naturally and:  To improve your chances of conceiving with every menstrual cycle, it is recommended to have sex every 2-3 days so there is a good chance of catching your fertile window.   Assisted reproductive techniques (ARTs) ART options include ovarian stimulation (COS), intrauterine insemination (IUI), and in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).  Depending on your age, ART is recommended if: IUI is usually offered to couples with minimal or mild endometriosis if their partner has normal semen quality and is typically not offered to those with moderate/severe endometriosis, because of a probable effect on the Fallopian tubes. IVF can be offered to those with moderate or severe endometriosis. It can also help those with a very low egg reserve. IVF has been found to be less successful in people with endometriosis compared to those without endometriosis. However, lots of factors influence IVF success, like age, whether you’ve been pregnant before, if you’ve had treatment before body mass index, underlying health conditions, lifestyle and your partner’s sperm quality.  Resources:  

 What are the Main Symptoms of Endometriosis?-image

 What are the Main Symptoms of Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a common reproductive health condition that affects 1 in 10 in the UK. It’s characterised by painful, heavy periods as well as other, often debilitating symptoms. Here we go through each of the main symptoms in detail, so you know what to look out for and when to get checked.  Quick facts: Endometriosis in the UK In the UK, endometriosis affects around 1.5 million women and people assigned female-at-birth (AFAB). That’s 1 in 10 who are currently living with the condition, regardless of race or ethnicity (1). People with endometriosis often experience very painful periods as well as a host of other symptoms. Many people live with endometriosis for a long time before getting diagnosed. Sometimes up to 7 years or more.  This is often the result of a general lack of awareness about the condition, dismissal of women’s pain and symptoms having a lot of crossover with other conditions. So what are the main symptoms of endometriosis? Here’s what to look out for if you suspect you, or someone close to you, may have the condition. What is endometriosis? Endometriosis is a chronic reproductive health condition where cells similar to those lining the uterus grow in other parts of the body. Endometrial tissues and lesions are found in the ovaries and Fallopian tubes.  They can sometimes also grow in the vagina, cervix, vulva, bowel, bladder and rectum. Rarely, do they appear in other parts of the body, like the lungs, brain, and skin (2). Just like the lining of the uterus, these cells build up and eventually shed. But unlike your period which drains through the vagina, this blood and tissue has nowhere to go. This can cause inflammation, crippling pain and a long list of other symptoms. Endometriosis can affect women of any age, including teenagers. What are the main symptoms of endometriosis? Here are the most common symptoms of endometriosis (3):  Severe period pain  Severe period and pelvic pain are often reported to be the most debilitating symptoms of endometriosis. This pain is often described as ‘a razor blade pain’.  During your menstrual cycle, the lining of your uterus (endometrium) is built up to support a potential pregnancy. If its baby-making dreams are not fulfilled, your body releases chemicals called prostaglandins.  Prostaglandins cause the uterus to contract and your endometrium sheds. Cue, your period. These contractions are what cause period pain. With endometriosis, the endometrial-like cells that have grown outside of the uterus also build up and shed. This internal bleeding leads to inflammation, intense pain and a buildup of scar tissue and adhesions (a type of tissue that can bind your organs together).  Usually, the first or second day of your period is the most painful. But in cases of endometriosis, the crippling pain usually kicks in a few days before your period’s arrival. It can also make an unwelcome return during ovulation or even throughout the month.  People can also experience chronic pain, increased lower back and pain around their legs which increases around their periods. “Endo belly” is a common term used to refer to the uncomfortable abdominal symptoms associated with endometriosis. Heavy periods Another common endometriosis symptom is heavy periods. Heavy periods are defined as: If your periods are painful or heavy it’s important to seek medical advice. Monthly heavy bleeding can increase the risk of anaemia (iron deficiency) which can result in symptoms of fatigue, feeling cold often and hair thinning. Pain during or after sex Another common symptom of endometriosis is pain during or after vaginal penetration. This can be caused by endometrial lesions growing in the pelvic region and becoming inflamed during or after sex. This pain is called dyspareunia. It has been reported to feel like a stabbing shooting pain, usually felt deep inside the pelvis. Any unwanted pain during sex is not normal. If you experience any pain during or after sex or any bleeding, get it checked out. There is also mental health support available if you feel your intimacy is being affected by pain during sex. Bowel and urination pain Endometrial lesions can sometimes find their way to the surface of the bowel or even penetrate its wall. This can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as pain when urinating or passing bowel movements or noticing blood in your urine or poo. Pain during urination can sometimes be misdiagnosed as a UTI. If you’re in pain when passing urine or poo or if you notice any blood in either, get it checked out to understand what might be the cause. Bloating and gastrointestinal issues People with endometriosis can also experience bloating and gastrointestinal issues. These symptoms are similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Including diarrhoea, constipation and bloating. These symptoms are often affected by your cycle and can worsen in the days before your period. Fertility problems Unfortunately, endometriosis can affect your fertility. Infertility affects about 30-50% of those with endometriosis, but there are no definitive answers (yet) as to why—only theories.   However, this does not mean that if you have endometriosis you can’t conceive. Even in cases of severe endometriosis, natural conception is possible.  Mental health impacts Living with a chronic condition can be tough and often isolating. Endometriosis can affect various aspects of life from personal to professional relationships, which can impact your mental health.  If you feel like endometriosis is impacting your mental health, there are online support communities like Endometriosis UK. You can also talk to our Fertility Counsellors for any mental health concerns relating to your fertility.  Getting to the bottom of symptoms Just like any reproductive health condition, endometriosis varies from person to person. Not everyone with endometriosis will experience all of these symptoms to the same severity. Some people may not experience any of these symptoms at all.  Having severe pain or very heavy periods is not necessarily a sign of more severe endometriosis. It’s also important to remember that each of these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions.  If you’re experiencing any of the […]