Renowned fertility expert, and Co-Director of The Fertility Academy explains how endometriosis affects fertility, practical measures that can be taken to help, and treatment options available.

What Is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a medical condition whereby endometrial tissue (the tissue of the lining of the womb) grows outside of the womb. It can appear around the bladder, the bowel, the ovaries and fallopian tubes, amongst other places, and can contribute to long term health issues when left untreated.

Endometriosis affects an estimated 10% of women in the reproductive-age group, rising to 30% to 50% in patients with infertility and/or pain, with significant impact on their physical, mental, and social well-being1.

The causes of endometriosis are unknown (although theories abound, the most widely accepted is immune system imbalance) and there is no cure. One of the most significant side effects of the condition is infertility. As stated above, endometriosis could be accountable for up to 50% of infertility issues in women who are finding it difficult to conceive.

Do I Have Endometriosis?

As with many gynaecological issues, the symptoms of endometriosis could be attributed to other medical conditions. However, these are the most common symptoms:

  1. Painful periods
  2. Heavy periods – which causes heavier bleeding. Using many tampons, or soaking through your clothes indicates a very heavy period.
  3. Abdominal pain – endometriosis can cause inflammation and scarring
  4. Pain after having sex
  5. Tiredness
  6. Infertility

Some women can go undiagnosed for years. In fact, figures suggest that it can take as long as seven years to get a diagnosis!2
If you are experiencing any number of these symptoms you should see your gynaecologist at your earliest convenience.

How Does Endometriosis Affect My Fertility?

Many women who suffer with endometriosis can still get pregnant, although, for some, infertility is the only symptom they ever encounter. Endometriosis can make it difficult to conceive and is dependent on the level of the condition; even those with mild cases and no scarring will find it difficult to get pregnant. As with causes, there is no definitive answer as to how the endometriosis has such a negative impact on conception, but possible reasons include:

  • Adhesions – endometriosis can cause scarring. Scarring in turn can make it difficult for an egg to travel down a fallopian tube effectively.
  • The endometriosis itself and the scarring can alter the ‘terrain’ of the pelvis and reproductive organs making it more difficult for egg and sperm to meet.
  • Endometriosis can be associated with abnormal immune responses to the embryo.
  • The lining of the womb does not develop adequately to carry a baby to term.

What Practical Measures Can I Take To Help?

It’s so important to make sure that you are ready to take on the physical challenge of conceiving, carrying and having a baby.

  1. Limit inflammatory foods – meats, dairy, sugar, caffeine and alcohol. Make sure you are getting plenty of vegetables and antioxidants. One study showed that women who ate red meat every day were twice as likely to develop endometriosis3. It is thought that red meat and high fat diets contain oestrogen which flare endometriosis.
  2. Plan well – it is so important to plan ahead for having a baby. Many of us don’t think about getting pregnant until the moment we become definite about wanting a baby. However, as maternal ages increase, it is becoming more obvious that women need to undergo reproductive health checks throughout their lives. Taking time to have your fertility tested can give you peace of mind and a good indication of the right time (for your body) to begin a family. General examination, ultrasound and laparoscopy can be used to diagnose endometriosis quickly and effectively. At The Fertility & Gynaecology Academy we offer a Fertility Check to give you peace of mind and help you plan for the future.

What Treatment Is There For Endometriosis?

In terms of improving your fertility, surgery may be your best option if it is feasible to try naturally and there is no other factors of infertility. Removing as much of the tissue as possible will have beneficial results for improving your chances of conception success. If you suffer severe endometriosis or surgery does not produce required results, then IVF is a great option that introduces the sperm and egg ‘in vitro’, therefore bypassing the issues that the condition creates.

If you are concerned you may be experiencing symptoms of endometriosis, or would like to arrange for a Fertility Check, you can make an appointment with Dr Gorgy at The Fertility & Gynaecology Academy by calling 020 7224 1880.