Endometriosis occurs when tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. It affects more than 11% of American women ages 15-44 and is especially common among women in their 30s and 40s during their peak childbearing years.
At the OB/GYN office of Dr. Hany H Ahmed in Houston, Texas, Dr. Ahmed and his team treat all manner of gynecological issues, including those, like endometriosis, that can impact fertility. If you have endometriosis and wonder if you can still get pregnant, here’s the expert’s answer.
What’s the endometrium?
The endometrium is the tissue that lines the inside of your uterus, the same tissue you shed during a menstrual period. If you get pregnant and an egg implants in the uterine wall, the endometrium helps support the early phases of fetal development.
When you have endometriosis, though, endometrial-like tissue starts growing on other organs and structures within your abdomen, pelvis, or even chest. And since the tissue is hormonally sensitive, it can become inflamed during your menstrual cycle and produce symptoms.
Complications of the endometrial-like tissue include ovarian cysts, superficial lesions, deep nodules, adhesions (tissue that binds organs together inappropriately), and scar tissue within your body.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
Some people experience no symptoms with endometriosis, but it’s much more common to have at least a few. The primary symptom is pain, typically felt in your abdomen, pelvic region, and lower back. The pain can range from mild cramping to absolutely debilitating.
Remember that pain level isn’t synonymous with the severity of the underlying condition.
Other symptoms vary widely from one person to the next and include:
- Irregular periods
- Heavy flow
- Spotting between cycles
- Pain during or after intercourse/orgasm
- Painful bowel movements during your period
- Cramping before and after your period
- Persistent lower back pain
Symptoms tend to worsen during your period as the trapped endometrial-like tissue becomes inflamed and tries to break down but has nowhere to go. Some people experience symptoms throughout the month, leading to additional complications, like chronic fatigue and depression.
Because endometriosis shares symptoms with other conditions, it can be difficult to diagnose without imaging tests and an exploratory laparoscopy.
Can you get pregnant if you have endometriosis?
The short answer is yes, but there are a number of caveats. Because of hormonal fluctuations and irregular periods, to say nothing of abnormal tissue, endometriosis is recognized as a common cause of infertility.
Hormonal suppressants control the symptoms of endometriosis, but they have the effect of further preventing pregnancy. Surgery to remove the endometrial-like tissue, which is never a first-line treatment, can effectively relieve your pain and, in some cases, improve your fertility.
In addition, alternative treatments may be effective.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI), where Dr. Ahmed introduces sperm directly into the uterus, or in vitro fertilization (IVF), where the sperm fertilizes the egg in a petri dish and the resulting embryo is implanted in the uterus, are common options for improving your chances of getting pregnant.
If you’re dealing with endometriosis and having difficulty getting pregnant, all hope isn’t lost. Dr. Ahmed and his staff offer effective treatments for both conditions. To schedule a consultation, call our office or book online with us today.