By now you have a basic understanding of what endometriosis is but there is no harm giving a reminder. It occurs when cells similar to those that line the uterus grow elsewhere in the body. It can cause chronic pelvic pain and a variety of other symptoms. But what is the link between endometriosis and pregnancy? We are about to find out.
Is it possible for women with endometriosis to become pregnant?
Endometriosis makes it difficult for an affected woman to conceive and carry a pregnancy. However, on many occasions women with endometriosis have conceived and have gone ahead to have healthy babies. Of key importance though is an understanding of the effects of endometriosis on pregnancy and the effect of pregnancy on the symptoms of endometriosis.
First things first… Endometriosis versus Fertility and Pregnancy
About one third of women with endometriosis have trouble with fertility and struggle to get pregnant. This is likely to affect women in different ways and can create a roller-coaster of emotions. Once pregnant, many women also worry about the effect of their endometriosis on their pregnancy and delivery.
There are several reasons as to why slightly under a third (3/10) of all women with endometriosis have a difficulty getting pregnant.
- Endometriosis is responsible for scarring the tubes and ovaries which are crucial organs in a woman’s reproductive system
- Endometriosis compromises the quality of the ovum (egg) produced during ovulation
- Endometriosis damages the uterine wall making it difficult for the embryo to travel down the tube and implant
- It also causes damage to organs in the pelvis. Adhesion, scarring of the pelvic tissue as well as blocked Fallopian tubes.
Feelings can also affect fertility in women with endometriosis. Just the thought of having it may cause worry, confusion, inadequacies, stress, anger, sadness, grief and depression. These feelings of frustration greatly affect the chances of conception.
Not all women with endometriosis are infertile
More than two thirds (70%) of women with endometriosis have successfully conceived and had healthy babies. This statistical fact reminds us that not all women with endometriosis are infertile. The children may come at different times, but they do. Some come before diagnosis, and others wait for some time but they eventually conceive. Most of them however, have children without difficulty.
Laparoscopy (a keyhole surgery (operation)) is usually employed to reduce symptoms of endometriosis and improve fertility.
The Flipside… How does pregnancy affect the symptoms of endometriosis?
Pregnancy may have different effects on endometriosis symptoms. Some women may not have to worry about the symptoms when they get pregnant as they will no longer have periods. Increased levels of the hormone progesterone during a normal pregnancy also improves symptoms. Progestin, a synthetic version of hormone progesterone has been employed to reduce symptoms of endometriosis for close to 9 out of 10 women making it a standard treatment for the malady. Natural progesterone may have similar results as progestin but it does not work exactly the same way in every woman.
Pregnancy will not cure endometriosis…
Pregnancy is not a natural treatment for endometriosis. In some women pregnancy can actually worsen the symptoms. There are a number of reasons for this, but most commonly because of the growth of the uterus that puts lots of pressure on the areas that the endometrial-lining like tissues are.
Hormone oestrogen can also worsen endometriosis symptoms during pregnancy. This hormone is not to have a tendency of encouraging more endometriosis lesions to develop.
In cases where pregnancy has relieved the symptoms of endometriosis, they are likely to return once the normal menstrual cycle kicks in again, an occurrence that can probably be delayed by breast feeding.
Can endometriosis be prevented?
Usually… No. However, staying healthy might help with the symptoms. Staying healthy in this case includes;
- Getting enough rest
- Regular exercise
- Enough sleep to manage pain
- Healthy eating habits
- Drinking enough water
At menopause endometriosis tends to get better since you stop having periods. It can be treated with medications or surgery.