What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is when the cells that line the uterus or endometrium, grow in places outside the uterus (such as the pelvis). Around 10% of women of reproductive age are affected by endometriosis. It is quite a common condition, especially in women over 30 who have not yet had children.
How does endometriosis affect fertility?
Endometriosis is a common cause of infertility, as severe endometriosis can distort the tubes and ovaries. It may also block the egg’s release by causing scar tissue or cysts.
What causes endometriosis?
Whilst it is unclear exactly what causes endometriosis there are a few theories:
- Retrograde (backward) menstruation: During menstruation some of the menstrual blood that carries endometrial tissue cells flows backwards along the fallopian tubes into the pelvis where the cells can then implant and grow.
- Coelomic Metaplasia: Suggests that the cells lining the pelvic organs are able to change their structure and function to become endometrial cells when they are influenced by certain conditions. Triggers could include puberty or oestrogen surges.
- Altered immunity: Suggests that development might be related to a deficiency in your immune system’s ability to recognise the presence of endometrial tissue in abnormal locations and eliminate it.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
Symptoms of endometriosis include painful periods, pain during intercourse and premenstrual spotting.
Factors that could indicate a higher incidence of endometriosis include:
- Early puberty (first period before 11 years of age)
- Advanced maternal age at first child birth
- Heavy, painful periods
- Long periods (more than 5 days) or short cycles (less the 27 days between periods)
- A family history of close relatives with endometriosis
If you experience these symptoms and are also having trouble conceiving naturally, you should seek advice from your GP or a fertility specialist.
How do you treat endometriosis?
Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive treatment for endometriosis, as well as other gynaecological conditions such as fibroids, uterine or tubal problems. The surgeon looks inside the abdominal cavity through a small incision in the navel to confirm endometriosis and can then treat it at the same time.
In many cases surgery may be the only treatment required to increase natural fertility. It can also increase the success rate of advanced reproductive treatments such as IVF.
Find out more about Laparoscopic surgery…
Video: Expert advice on Endometriosis
Suspect you have endometriosis?
If you suspect you may have endometriosis and have been trying to conceive for 12 months (6 months if you are over 35 years of age) you should consider booking an appointment with a fertility specialist.
Appointments are available in the next couple of weeks and will cost approximately $150 for a couple after the Medicare rebate.