Does endometriosis affect fertility?

Tommy's midwife Kate talks about endometriosis and how it can affect fertility.

Pregnancy blog, 20/03/17

Endometriosis is a common condition which affects around 2 million women in the UK. We chatted to our midwife Kate to learn more about endometriosis symptoms and treatment options.

Can you tell us more about endometriosis and who it affects?

Endometriosis mostly affects women of child-bearing age, but it can also occur in women who have been through the menopause and women who have had a hysterectomy. It happens when small pieces of tissue from the inner lining of the womb become attached elsewhere outside of the womb; for example on the bowel or bladder, ovaries and fallopian tubes and on the lining of the abdomen.

What are the typical endometriosis symptoms?

Symptoms can vary. Some women don’t have any at all, and others can have much more severe symptoms that impact their day-to-day life. The most common include:

  • Pain in the lower abdomen, pelvis or lower back; more commonly during ovulation
  • Painful, heavy or irregular periods
  • Pain during or after sex
  • Difficulty getting pregnant
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Tiredness

The exact cause of endometriosis is unknown but it’s thought that instead of all the lining of the womb being passed as a period, some of it flows backwards through the fallopian tubes into the abdomen. The tissue can then move around the body in the bloodstream or other vessels in the body

What are the treatment options?

Unfortunately there’s no cure for endometriosis but there are treatments available to help manage the condition. The experience of endometriosis is different for every woman so there’s no one right treatment for all.

But the three main treatment options available are; pain relief, such as Ibuprofen; hormonal, such as the combined pill, Mirena coil or progesterone pill/injection, and surgery.

Does endometriosis affect the chances of women getting pregnant?

30-40% of women with endometriosis have difficulties getting pregnant. This is usually because the tissue is attached to the ovarian or fallopian tubes. Laser surgery or keyhole surgery can help to improve fertility as it removes the tissue causing endometriosis. Surgery can also help to reduce pain as well as aiding doctors to diagnose the condition.

The good news is that there are no added risks or complications in pregnancy for women with endometriosis. In fact, most women find that their symptoms disappear during pregnancy. However, pregnancy is not a cure and the symptoms usually reappear after they have had their baby or stopped breastfeeding.

Is there such thing as an endometriosis diet?

There is no reliable evidence that has shown diet to help with endometriosis, however some women have found that some changes did improve their symptoms. The most common suggestion is avoiding foods high in oestrogen such as soy, and avoiding wheat too. But of course, eating a healthy balanced diet including lots of fruits and vegetables, and doing regular exercise can have a positive effect on your overall mental and physical wellbeing.

Endometriosis and your mental wellbeing

It’s important for women to have the opportunity to talk through their treatment options with their doctor and make a decision that is right for them. It’s worth pointing out that for 3 in 10 women, endometriosis can get better without any treatment at all.

This condition can be very severe, and for some women who are affected, this can have a big impact on day-to-day life. It is important to seek help and support, do speak with your GP or access local groups or support services that can help you when you need it.

Read more about endometriosis and getting pregnant here.

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