About 11% of women between the ages of 15 and 44 have endometriosis, and up to half of all women who experience infertility have it. Endometriosis develops when your uterine lining — called the endometrium — grows outside the uterus.
The endometrium naturally grows inside your uterus and sheds during your menstrual period each month. If you have endometriosis, the tissue grows elsewhere in your body, but it still sheds and bleeds as if it’s in your uterus.
The tissue gets trapped in your body, which causes inflammation, pain, and other complications. It’s a leading factor in female infertility, because it can interfere with ovulation and fertilization. Endometriosis is a common cause of infertility, but it’s treatable.
- Michael Coppa, MD, and our team are experts in treating the causes of infertility. If you’re struggling to get pregnant, you might have endometriosis. Talk to Dr. Coppa to learn more about the treatments available to improve fertility and help you get pregnant.
Symptoms of endometriosis
Endometriosis can be difficult to diagnose, because many women don’t seek treatment for painful menstrual periods. There are other conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome and pelvic inflammatory disease that share similar symptoms. But if you’re experiencing problems getting pregnant, endometriosis could be the cause.
Common signs of endometriosis include:
- Severe menstrual cramps
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Bleeding between periods
- Pain during sex
- Pain with bowel movements or urination
Women with endometriosis often suffer painful periods that include abdominal pain and lower back pain. Other symptoms can include fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea.
The symptoms that you experience can vary depending on where the tissue grows, and the severity of your pain may not indicate the severity of your endometriosis. For example, some women with intense pain have mild endometriosis, and vice versa.
How endometriosis affects your fertility
There are many factors that influence a couple’s fertility. In general, you might have fertility issues if you and your partner have had unprotected sex for a year or longer without getting pregnant.
Roughly a third of the time, infertility is traced back to the woman’s health. Male infertility contributes to another third of cases, and the cause of infertility is unclear in remaining cases.
Many women first receive an endometriosis diagnosis after seeking treatment for infertility, and up to 1 in 2 women with fertility issues has endometriosis. The severity of your endometriosis can vary, but endometriosis tissue growth often makes fertilization difficult.
Endometrial tissue growth outside the uterus can block reproductive organs, making it more difficult for sperm to reach an egg. Sometimes, the endometrial tissue inside the uterus doesn’t develop properly, which makes implantation more difficult after an egg has been fertilized.
Treatment options to increase your fertility
There are a number of treatments available for endometriosis, but not all of them are good options for women who want to get pregnant. Hormonal birth control can limit endometrial growth, but it also prevents pregnancy. Endometrial ablation is a permanent solution for endometriosis, but pregnancy isn’t possible after the procedure.
Dr. Coppa offers treatments for women with endometriosis who want to get pregnant. He can recommend hormonal medication to temporarily stop your menstrual cycle, but once you stop taking the medicine, your cycle returns and you may have a better chance of getting pregnant.
Surgery is another option for severe endometriosis that affects your fertility. With endometriosis surgery, Dr. Coppa removes patches of endometrial tissue to make it easier for sperm to reach and fertilize an egg.
Facing infertility can be emotionally and physically draining. Dr. Coppa and our team are here to help you find the right treatment for your body. Learn more about endometriosis and how it could be affecting your fertility by requesting your first appointment today at one of our locations in Cranston, Smithfield, and Providence, Rhode Island.