Endometriosis is a painful condition where the cells of the uterine lining, which are usually shed during menstruation, grow in other places of the abdomen. This can result in scarring of the pelvic organs and the ovaries and can lead to infertility.

What causes endometriosis?

Research suggests that multiple factors contribute to endometriosis. Autoimmune disorders, genetic inheritence, prior abdominal surgeries, and endocrine imbalances all have links to the disease. Excess estrogen is thought to increase the odds of developing endometriosis, so many experts recommend keeping estrogen levels lower through regular exercise, cutting out too much alcohol and caffeine, and achieving a lower body fat percentage.

How does endometriosis affect fertility?

Endometriosis hampers fertility by building up scarring across any affected areas, which commonly include the uterus, ovaries, lining of the pelvic cavity, and fallopian tubes. Less commonly affected areas include the rectum, bladder, cervix, and vagina. The scarring acts to clog up the reproductive system and can block the release of eggs from the ovaries, among various other effects. Exhaustion, pain during sex, persistent lower back and abdominal pain, spotting, extremely intense period symptoms, and intestinal discomfort are frequently experienced symptoms. Cysts, scar tissue, and adhesions further contribute to fertility problems.

How can I treat endometriosis?

Endometriosis can be painful and seriously hinder your chances of getting pregnant, so it’s important to take the best course of action possible when treating it. Here are some tips to increase your chances of getting pregnant with endometriosis:

  • Adjust your diet and exercise regimen: Eating a nutrient-rich diet is important in regulating your menstrual cycle, and exercising will help keep the painful abdominal symptoms at bay.
  • Pain medications: Although pain medications treat the symptoms and not the underlying problem causing endometriosis, they can be essential in helping women cope with the occasionally intense physical discomforts. Over-the-counter options like ibuprofen may be enough, but if not, a doctor may recommmend stronger, prescription-only pain relievers.
  • Talk to your doctor about investigating what’s been damaged: If there has been significant scarring on your reproductive organs important for conceiving (i.e. ovaries, fallopian tubes), you may want to consider some sort of surgical repair to help them function normally.
  • Hormone treatments: Your doctor may prescribe hormone treatments to reduce the amount of estrogen in your body that could be creating the excess tissue. Many hormonal treatments are also birth control methods, so make sure that your health care providers knows that you're actively trying to conceive so that your treatment method doesn't interfere with your fertility.
  • Look into natural therapies to boost your fertility: Strengthening your immune system and ingesting specific vitamins, minerals, and herbal remedies may help boost your fertility and improve your chances of getting pregnant. Some endometriosis support sites list helpful supplements to take, but discuss with your doctor what is best for you and what you should avoid.
  • Track your fertility to maximize your chances of conceiving: If you are able to pinpoint your ovulation and fertile window (the time when you have the best chance of getting pregnant), you have a much higher likelihood of conceiving faster.

It can be frustrating and disheartening that endometriosis doesn't have a single, always-effective cure, but it's still a condition you can conquer with treatments and help. And with more than five million women in the US coping with it, it's one of the most common health problems, so you're not alone.

Read more
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. "Endometriosis: FAQ013." ACOG. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 10/12/2015. Web.
  • "Patient Fact Sheet: Endometriosis." ASRM. American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 2012. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. "Endometriosis." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 4/2/2013. Web.
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