Endometriosis: How it can affect fertility and what you can do
First thing first: Not all women diagnosed with endometriosis have fertility problems.
It is estimated that 60-70 percent of women with endometriosis will not experience a fertility delay, and will become pregnant spontaneously. However, it is important to be aware that some women with endometriosis can have fertility issues – and may need help in starting their family.
To help clear up some questions you may have, we recenty chatted with Mary McAuliffe, Head of Clinical Service at Waterstone Clinic, leading fertility specialists with clinics nationwide, to find out how the condition can affect fertility and what can be done to help.
How endometriosis can affect fertility and what you can do?
Endometriosis can affect fertility in a number of ways. Severe endometriosis has the greatest negative effect, causing pelvic scarring and adhesions. These adhesions can damage or block the fallopian tubes, and can move pelvic organs into incorrect positions. The ovaries also can often contain cysts of endometriosis (endometriomas) which effect ovarian reserve over time. All the above can create difficulties when tying for a baby.
What options are available to me?
There are different options available to help reduce symptoms of endometriosis and improve fertility. However, the plan of what treatment to opt for must be individualised for each woman. There are no easy answers. Treatment depends on factors such as the severity of the disease and its location in the pelvis, the age of the woman, and the presence of pain or other symptoms.
How important is an early diagnosis?
Early diagnosis is important, as is starting to try for a family as soon as the couple is ready. Endometriosis, and the associated damage, builds up over time. Women with severe endometriosis are mostly advised to start IVF immediately to increase their chance of success. IVF is often the treatment of choice for women with severe endometriosis, as simpler treatments are often ineffective due to distortion of the pelvic organs from adhesion and scaring.
What about surgery?
The discussion to operate on the adhesion and cysts (if present) will depend on a number of factors - scan findings, cyst positioning and size, age, and ovarian reserve. If a woman does not want to conceive, the use of the oral contraceptive pill is also something that may ease symptoms.
Should I seek help?
If I was to give one piece of advice, it’s to be proactive about your fertility by seeking an assessment if you have had a diagnosis of endometriosis. It’s so important to get a treatment plan at an early stage.
Will I have to go through IVF?
If IVF is advised, it is not as daunting as it sounds. You will be guided through each step; with medical and emotional support that is crucial throughout your IVF cycle. For what is a demanding time for couples who wish to conceive, it is important to get the right advice.
If you have a diagnosis of endometriosis or are having problems conceiving, contact Waterstone Clinic directly at 0818 333310 to talk through your options, or visit www.waterstoneclinic.ie.