If you’re living with endometriosis, you may have wondered how it will affect your fertility. You may even be trying to fall pregnant right now.
The good news is that it is possible to get pregnant with endometriosis. However, up to 50% of women with endometriosis have difficulty getting pregnant. This can be attributed to a variety of factors including your age, your partner’s fertility, and how severe your endometriosis is.
How does endometriosis affect fertility?
Although the relationship between endometriosis and fertility is not entirely clear, the condition can be attributed to several issues that can cause infertility. These include:
Endometrial scar tissue can block fallopian tubes, preventing fertilization and pregnancy. Scar tissue can also cause adhesions to form on reproductive organs, stopping them from functioning normally.
The link between pelvic inflammation and infertility is not completely clear, but the two are believed to be related. Women with endometriosis generally have increased inflammation in the pelvic cavity, so it’s a possible contributing factor.
While endometriosis causes tissue to grow outside the uterus, it can also affect the inner lining of the uterus. This can make it harder for an embryo to implant and develop normally.
Decreased egg viability
Embryos of women with endometriosis develop slower than average. This can result in embryos of lower quality and also affect implantation rates.
Treatment options for endometriosis-related infertility
There are a number of treatments available to assist women experiencing difficulty in conceiving. Your gynaecologist can advise a treatment plan that may include:
Surgical treatment – Surgical treatment of endometriosis has been shown to increase your natural chances of conception, especially in the first six months after treatment and it should be the first line of treatment. Even though current evidence suggests that women with endometriosis are more likely to experience fertility issues, not all women with endometriosis will need help and only a small number will ever require IVF.
Fertility medications – Some medications may help women with decreased egg viability produce two or three mature eggs that can increase the chance of pregnancy.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) – This involves extracting an egg and fertilising it outside the body with a partner’s collected sperm, then implanting it into the uterus. IVF is often recommended for women with moderate to severe endometriosis who haven’t responded to other treatments.
Improving your likelihood of conceiving with endometriosis
While there’s no ‘magic bullet’ treatment or medication that guarantees pregnancy, there are some practical ways you can increase your chances of conceiving when you have endometriosis.
Steps you can take include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising at least 4 times a week for 40 minutes or more
- Eating a diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins
- Not smoking, and limiting your alcohol intake
When to see a specialist
If you’ve been diagnosed with endometriosis and are planning to become pregnant, and have symptoms suggestive of endometriosis you may want to see a gynaecologist when deciding about treatments. They can work with your doctor to ensure your treatment is aligned with your future goals of having a family.
If you’ve been trying to conceive for six months or more, there may be an underlying fertility issue that needs to be addressed.