Women usually tend to take their health for granted without realizing how it is going to affect them in the long run. I, being a woman, very well understand how difficult it is for us to take care of their own health while indulging in day to day activities and looking after our families. The journey of motherhood is one of the most beautiful yet challenging parts of any woman’s life, but it is not the same for everyone. For some women, motherhood is just a dream which can only be realized with the help of the right fertility treatment. There are a plethora of problems that can affect your fertility and endometriosis is one of them.
The endometriosis society of India suggests that nearly 25 million women in India suffer from the disorder and the numbers are increasing. The question here arises ‘What exactly is endometriosis?’
Endometriosis is a condition marked by the outgrowth of the uterine tissue, also known as the endometrial tissue to the organs surrounding the uterus, including the ovaries. This prevents the normal menstrual blood from flowing out of your body and it instead gets accumulated in the ovaries leading to the formation of cysts known as endometriomas. This can lead to chronic pain and discomfort especially when you are menstruating or indulging in sexual activities. The tissues can also spread to the fallopian tubes and the cervix.
How Endometriosis affects fertility?
You must be wondering how endometriosis can interfere with fertility?
Endometriosis leads to chronic inflammation of the fimbria, which is responsible for picking up the eggs and carrying them to the fallopian tubes. This leads to scarring which obstructs the path of the eggs, thereby preventing them from reaching their destination. This inflammation also creates an inhospitable environment that does not support the sperm and eggs. Fertility specialists suggest that if the problem is left untreated for long, it can cause adhesions due to which the organs start sticking to each other.
What causes endometriosis?
Endometriosis can be a result of any of the following:
- Retrograde menstruation – Instead of flowing out of the body, the menstruation blood flows backwards into the pelvic cavity.
- Abnormal peritoneal cell transformation – Many experts suggest that certain hormones trigger the transformation of peritoneal cells that line the interior of the abdomen into endometrial-like cells.
- Embryonic cell transformation – This may be due to the excessive production of hormones like estrogen.
- Surgical implantation of the scar – The endometrial cells might stick on and around the surgical incision after hysterectomy or other such surgeries.
- Endometrial cell transport – The endometrial cells can travel to other parts of the body via the blood vessels along with other body fluids, leading to their accumulation in various other areas.
- Immune system disorder – Certain abnormalities in the immune system may make it difficult for your body to detect and destroy the endometrial tissue that grows out of the uterine cavity.
Symptoms of endometriosis:
The most common symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain and discomfort. While some might experience these only during menstruation or while having sex, others may experience these on a regular basis. I have listed some of the most common symptoms associated with Endometriosis that you should not take for granted:
- Dysmenorrhea – Commonly known as period cramps, these usually start a few days prior to your periods and can go on for a few days. The pain is usually experienced in the pelvic area and the lower back. Mild dysmenorrhoea can be a healthy and normal sign of getting ovulatory cycles. These become a cause of concern especially if the cramps are progressively increasing, was earlier cyclical, and is now becoming a continuous dull aching pain in the lower abdomen, is associated with pain during bowel movement or intercourse, etc. Such symptoms warrant an examination by a gynecologist or fertility specialist.
- Painful intercourse – Women suffering from the disorder experience chronic pain while having sex
- Pain while urinating and passing stools – These are usually experienced when you are menstruating
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding – Women with endometriosis tend to experience heavy menstrual bleeding and may even bleed between periods.
- Infertility – Endometriosis can make it difficult to conceive, so if you are not able to get pregnant even after continuous attempts, chances are that you might be suffering from endometriosis. 7-10% of women with unexplained infertility have underlying endometriosis as the possible reason for subfertility. Mild to moderate endometriosis can be diagnosed only with laparoscopy or MRI and women may be asymptomatic with normal ultrasound as well as tube testing reports.
Apart from all these symptoms, the female may also experience other symptoms like constipation, bloating, indigestion, nausea, etc. It is also pertinent to note that the severity of your endometriosis cannot be determined by the adversity of the pain and it can only be evaluated by proper diagnosis and assessment.
Endometriosis pain is often mistaken for normal period cramps. This is the reason why endometriosis goes unnoticed in most of the women during the early stages. Some may even confuse it with irritable bowel syndrome. It is due to this reason that women are time and again advised to go for regular health check-ups and assessments.
Conception with endometriosis
Fertility treatment specialists suggest that pregnancy might help to treat endometriosis to some extent as the hormones generated by the female body post conception are quite effective in treating the problem. This is the reason why all the best fertility specialists initially try to help the female in conceiving via various Infertility treatments like superovulation/IUI or laparoscopy and moving to IVF treatments sooner to help conceive faster as endometriosis affects both tubal functioning as well as egg quality, and it is a progressive disease, time is of big essence in treatment success and getting pregnant early and quickly is the key to resolution of this medical condition.