It’s Endometriosis Awareness month across the globe with the mission to raise awareness of this disease which affects an estimated 176 million women worldwide.
Even though 1 in 10 UK women suffer from endometriosis, the condition remains relatively unknown and diagnosis takes an average of 7.5 years in the UK.
Complete Fertility Centre Southampton supports Endometriosis Awareness month and the need to raise awareness of endometriosis in women who may not yet have a diagnosis.
Endometriosis can have a devastating effect on a woman’s quality of life due to its very painful symptoms and it being the biggest cause of infertility in women.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition where cells like those in the lining of your womb are found elsewhere in your body. Each month these cells react to your menstrual cycle and bleed. However, this blood has no way of escaping and can cause inflammation, pain, and the formation of scar tissue, known as adhesions.
The cause of endometriosis is unknown.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
Some women with endometriosis have no noticeable symptoms but for others it can significantly impact their life.
Symptoms can include:
• Pain in your lower stomach or back, during or after sex or period pain.
• Heavy or irregular periods
• Fatigue and lack of energy
• Feeling sick, constipation, diarrhoea or blood in your urine during your period
• Problems with your sex life and your relationship
• An inability to conceive
• Difficulty doing your normal activities
Does endometriosis affect a woman’s fertility?
Endometriosis is a common gynaecological problem. It can affect a woman’s fertility but it does not necessarily cause infertility. As the severity of endometriosis increases, the chance of natural conception decreases.
The chance of conceiving if you have mild endometriosis is not very different to a woman who does not have it. If you have moderate or severe endometriosis, you will have more scar tissue and this can trap your egg and prevent it from passing down your Fallopian tube. However, even with severe endometriosis, natural conception is possible.
Diagnosis and grading of endometriosis
A laparoscopy is the most informative diagnostic test for endometriosis. It allows your pelvis to be carefully inspected and a classification score of endometriosis severity can be given that helps predict your chances of becoming pregnant naturally.
Treatment of endometriosis
There is no definite cure for endometriosis but treatment can help ease the symptoms.
Endometriosis treatment is typically based on your symptoms and whether you are trying for a baby.
Treatment options available to women with endometriosis are:
• Pain relief – over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications may help reduce your pain.
• Hormone treatment – limits or stops oestrogen production in your body that encourages endometriosis tissue to grow and shed. Hormone treatment treats pain but has no effect on scar tissue, does not improve your fertility, and is a contraceptive.
• Surgery – most commonly performed by laparoscopy to remove or destroy endometriosis tissue. It can help relieve endometriosis symptoms and improve your fertility if you have minimal or mild endometriosis.
Fertility treatment for patients with endometriosis
There are several types of fertility treatment available if you have endometriosis that can offer you improved chances of having a baby.
IVF and IUI are established treatments for endometriosis-related infertility.
The best type of fertility treatment will depend on the severity of your endometriosis, your age and egg reserve, how long you and your partner have been trying to conceive and if you have conceived in the past, and if you have any other fertility concerns such as blocked tubes or sperm problems.
Fertility treatments available at Complete Fertility Centre for women with endometriosis
Here at Complete Fertility Centre we offer a range of fertility treatments and individual treatment protocols for our patients with endometriosis depending on their needs. We also have consultants with the specialised surgical expertise to investigate and treat your endometriosis before you have your fertility treatment, which include:
Ovulation induction (OI) – can help to regulate irregular periods if you have minimal or mild endometriosis, by stimulating your ovaries to release an egg each month.
IUI (Intrauterine insemination) – for women with healthy fallopian tubes, who ovulate regularly, and have minimal or mild endometriosis. Prepared partner or donor sperm is inserted into your womb through the cervix when your eggs are released.
IVF (in vitro fertilisation) – for women with damaged or blocked fallopian tubes, who have moderate or severe endometriosis, or who have failed to conceive by IUI. Eggs and partner or donor sperm are fertilised in a laboratory dish to form an embryo, which is then transferred to your womb.
What to do if you are struggling to conceive or you have endometriosis and want to have a baby
Some women first find out they have endometriosis, when they have been trying for a baby without success. Others have endometriosis symptoms and have been diagnosed previously.
If you have unexplained infertility associated with painful periods or you have been trying for a baby without success for a year, you should speak to your GP or fertility specialist to find out if endometriosis is the cause.
You can arrange to see one of our expert fertility consultants to find out the best way forward for you to have a baby by calling 023 8120 6980 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.