When it comes to your health, listening to your body and following your instincts are true superpowers. Just ask the 6 million women in the U.S. living with endometriosis.
According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, 1 out of 10 women will experience endometriosis, and 30% to 50% of all infertile women have it.
Despite how common endometriosis is, this condition remains one of the most confounding for women and their OB-GYNs. The Endometriosis Foundation of America estimates many women will wait as long as 10 years for their final diagnosis. As more and more women are waiting longer to start a family, that diagnosis usually comes in their 30s and 40s.
If you’re wondering if you or a woman you care about could have endometriosis, read on to learn how the Kaldas Center diagnoses and treats the disorder, and how we make getting pregnant with endometriosis possible.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is uterine-like tissue that grows outside the uterus, on ovaries, fallopian tubes or in severe cases even the bladder, kidneys, intestines and rectum.
Endometriosis feeds on the female hormone estrogen. That’s why birth control or other drugs are often prescribed to women who aren’t trying to get pregnant. These medications can block estrogen and alleviate pain. But for those trying to conceive, other medical therapies are usually needed.
Endometriosis can start as early as a girl’s first period and last beyond menopause, especially in severe cases where there is significant scar tissue. This endometrial tissue causes irritation on surfaces it touches, which leads to pain and adhesions on organs.
Women with endometriosis can experience mild to severe pelvic pain, heavy periods, breath-through bleeding mid-cycle, and often find it difficult to get or stay pregnant.
The link between endometriosis and infertility
How does endometriosis cause infertility? Along with adhesions, there are many elements of endometriosis that collectively impair fertility.
- “Unfriendly” molecules are produced by the inflammation from endometriosis. These molecules can paralyze a sperm and egg and prevent the fertilization process.
- Endometriosis also distorts the anatomy of a woman’s pelvis and causes scarring in the fallopian tubes.
- It alters immune system functions and causes hormonal changes that can affect egg quality.
- It can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting.
Every woman’s anatomy is different. Therefore, every case of endometriosis is different. Some will experience all the symptoms listed below. Others experience only infertility.
- Pelvic pain
- Pain during sex and/or with ovulation
- Low back pain
- Painful bowel movements, constipation or diarrhea
Types of endometriosis
Endometriosis ranges from mild to severe, depending on where the endometrial tissue is growing and how significant a woman’s symptoms.
About 1 in 4 women with mild endometriosis need no treatment and the condition goes away on its own.
Still, other women experience “silent endometriosis” — no symptoms other than unexplained infertility. It’s these women who are most likely to be steered into in-vitro fertilization without a proper diagnosis, only to eventually experience failed IVF cycles.
Awareness is the first step to getting the right treatment for endometriosis and infertility.
Pay attention to your body. Track your symptoms. Note what you’re experiencing, when and how frequently, and speak up.
Endometriosis is difficult to diagnose. It’s often confused with bladder, intestinal and other conditions.
What can women do?
The most important thing is to trust your gut. If you’re suffering but have been told before by a provider that there’s nothing wrong, don’t settle. If your provider has only done an ultrasound to check for endometriosis, know that it is not enough, because the only way to definitively diagnose endometriosis is by laparoscopic surgery.
If this sounds like your experience, it’s time for a second opinion — especially if your OB-GYN is not experienced in diagnosing and treating endometriosis. Spoiler: According to EndoFound.org only 100 U.S. OB-GYNs specialize in advanced laparoscopic surgery. Remember that it’s OK to switch providers to get the help you need. At the Kaldas Center, we are proud to be part of the 0.3% who specializes in endometriosis.
It can also help to share experiences with other women who have been diagnosed with endometriosis. Connect with someone you know or join a Facebook group for women who have been diagnosed with endometriosis.
Our approach to endometriosis and infertility
Endometriosis treatment is by no means one size fits all. The Kaldas Center personalizes treatment, depending on the severity of the condition, your age, symptoms, and if your endometriosis is affecting your fertility. And we treat the underlying condition of endometriosis, not just infertility.
Laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis
Laparoscopic, or excision, surgery is the best way to diagnose and remove endometriosis and scar tissue for women finding getting pregnant with endometriosis difficult.
Excising endometriosis restores your normal anatomy and allows reproductive organs to function more normally.
If a doctor says a hysterectomy is the only way to cure your endometriosis, find a new doctor. To be blunt, there are other options. First off, the procedure does not cure the condition and, second, it obviously impacts your fertility.
If you are diagnosed with endometriosis, hope is not lost. Excision surgery, especially when paired with assisted reproductive technologies, can significantly improve infertility — even for women over 35.
We Can Help
If you think you may have endometriosis, advocate for your health. Get the help you deserve now, from the right provider.
Call the Kaldas Center at 920-886-2299.