Endometriosis is not only a painful and often-misdiagnosed disorder, but if left untreated it may also lead to fertility struggles. In the video below, Dr. Spencer Richlin, a board certified Reproductive Endocrinologist at Illume Fertility, speaks more on what exactly endometriosis is, how to manage symptoms, and what it all means for a woman’s fertility.
More of the reading type? Scroll down to read a summary of Dr. Richlin’s responses.
Endometriosis FAQs: Answered by a Fertility Specialist
What is endometriosis and how common is it?
Endometriosis is a gynecological condition from which one in 10 women suffers, according to Dr. Richlin. It often shows up as pelvic pain and struggles with fertility. This diagnosis is ultimately applied to about 80% of the women who come to a physician seeking care for pelvic pain.
How do you know if you have endometriosis?
Some symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Pain before, during, and after a menstrual period
- Sharp and/or dull pelvic pain
- Pain during intercourse
- Bladder pain
- A family history of endometriosis or pelvic pain
How do some people manage endometriosis symptoms?
Many people live with endometriosis pain for years, and are able to manage symptoms with a mixture of the methods below.
- Anti-inflammatory medications (like Advil, etc.)
- Continuous use of oral birth control pills (with no week of placebo pill, to avoid a painful period
- More serious medications, like Lupron, which suppresses estrogen production
- Surgical removal of endometrial cells
If you are experiencing any symptoms of endometriosis, speak to your OB-GYN. Being proactive and receiving an accurate diagnosis is key to managing symptoms, and mitigating the effect on your future fertility.
Please speak with your physician before taking new medications or making any changes.
Why might you struggle to conceive after endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a disorder that occurs when some of the menses cells flow back up through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvis instead of all exiting the body, as with a normal menstrual cycle. That can cause pain, inflammation, and the development of scar tissue in varied parts of the reproductive system, like the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and the surrounding area of the pelvis.
In the words of Dr. Richlin, the “end of the fallopian tube and the ovary have to have a perfect relationship” for a normal reproductive cycle to occur. For women who have struggled with endometriosis for a prolonged period of time, there is a real possibility of scarring on the ovaries and fallopian tubes, which can make it hard to conceive.
What fertility treatments might be recommended for someone with endometriosis?
A reproductive endocrinologist will work with you (and your partner, if applicable) to personalize a treatment plan for you. A baseline fertility assessment is key to evaluate hormone levels, and also to see if there is any damage or obstruction to the fallopian tubes.
If you need the help of a fertility specialist to conceive, common fertility treatments like ovulation induction or IUI treatment may be the answer. In the event of tubal damage or a blocked fallopian tube, in vitro fertilization (IVF) may help you bypass this “ovary-fallopian tube” connection and become pregnant.
How likely is it that you might struggle with fertility after experiencing endometriosis?
Each person or couple’s fertility journey is so personalized, but Dr. Richlin is adamant that a fertility assessment is the best place to start, because being proactive about your own health, reproductive and otherwise, is always important. From there, and with the assistance of a board certified reproductive endocrinologist, you can come up with a personalized plan to help you family build.
If you are experiencing pelvic pain or think that you might have endometriosis, speak to your OB-GYN for diagnosis and to identify the best treatment plan for you.
Learn how these famous patients navigate endo:
Sierra Dehmler is Illume Fertility’s Content Marketing Manager - and also a fertility patient herself. Combining empathy gained on her personal journey with her professional experience in marketing and content creation, she aims to empower and support other fertility patients by demystifying the fertility treatment process.