What is Endometriosis and how does it affect my ability to get pregnant?

If you are enduring or have suffered from Endometriosis in the past, you may be worried about your chances of conceiving and carrying your pregnancy successfully.  Being aware about endometriosis and pregnancy, and seeking suitable treatments for it are among the many positive steps that you can take to improve your health and chances of getting pregnant.

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a prevailing condition that affects millions of women all over the globe.  Around 15 % of women and girls in the United States and Canada are affected, and there are over 2 million reported cases of endometriosis in the United Kingdom.  Endometriosis causes small deposits of the endometrial matter, which lines the uterus, to lodge in the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, abdominal cavity and other organs in the lower abdomen.  These deposits of endometrial tissue grow and bleed in response to the normal hormonal changes that take place during your monthly menstrual cycle.  As the endometrial tissue bleeds, it causes swelling.  The resulting inflammation causes scarring and blood-filled cysts to form around the uterus, ovaries and Fallopian tubes.  These cysts and scarring can reduce a woman’s fertility by stopping the passage of the ovum from the ovary to the Fallopian tubes.  Many women that suffer from endometriosis experience discomfort.

The medical community divides the severity and diagnosis of endometriosis into four stages:

* Stage 1: Endometriosis in stage one is classified as minimal – there are isolated incidents of endometrial tissue growth outside the uterus.
* Stage 2: Endometriosis in stage two is considered mild – a doctor makes this diagnosis when there are several small implants of endometrial tissue and a few small areas of scar tissue or adhesions.
* Stage 3: Stage the endometriosis is moderate – the endometrial tissue implants in stage three must be superficial and deep. There must also be several prominent areas of scar tissue or adhesions.
* Stage 4: This is the most severe stage of endometriosis – Patients with stage 4 endometriosis will have many superficial and deep endometrial tissue implants as well as large adhesions. Endometriosis symptoms including infertility are common in patients with stage four endometriosis.

What causes endometriosis?

Modern medicine has been unable to conclusively diagnose the exact cause of endometriosis; however there are a few theories which can help to explain why endometriosis occurs.  One explanation for endometriosis is ‘retrograde menstruation’ in which some menstrual tissue “backs up” into the Fallopian tubes during menstruation and imbeds itself in the abdomen.  If the immune system does not clear up the endometrial tissue, it begins to grow in response to the body’s normal hormonal changes.  Another theory explains endometriosis as a dysfunction of the lymphatic system, and suggests that the condition is genetic.  Another theory states that endometriosis is caused by the retention of fragments of embryonic tissue from when the woman was in utero.

Endometriosis and Pregnancy

Advances endometriosis can lead to problems with fertility and conception because of the damage that it inflicts on the reproductive organs.  Women with mild cases of endometriosis are less likely to experience problems with fertility and conception.  Dr. Karen Trewinnard, in her work on fertility and conception, says that many women have had endometriosis without any ill effects, and that about 7 out of 10 women with endometriosis don’t have fertility problems, or are able to conceive with the help of natural remedies.  Dr Trewinnard goes on to discuss that women who suffer from endometriosis may be less likely to conceive because they avoid sex around the time of their ovulation, which is when the pain can be most severe.

Endometriosis often dramatically improves during pregnancy because ovulation ceases, and the deposits of endometrial tissue are able to shrink, or even breakdown completely.  Women, with endometriosis, who breastfeed after pregnancy, have a higher improvement rates because there is no ovulation during breast feeding.