How does endometriosis affect pregnancy: Understanding the impact and treatment options

Endometriosis is a complex condition that affects many aspects of a person's life, including fertility and the ability to conceive. If you have endometriosis and are considering starting a family, or are already pregnant, it's important to understand how this condition can impact your pregnancy journey.

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Endometriosis is when endometrial tissue similar to the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, grows outside the uterus

Endometriosis tissue can grow in ovaries, fallopian tubes, pelvic organs and the abdominal wall. Some of the common symptoms of endometriosis can include pelvic pain, painful periods, pain during intercourse, heavy periods, fatigue, and infertility. Not everyone with endometriosis will experience infertility or have difficulty conceiving, but there is a link between endometriosis and fertility issues. Lots of people with endometriosis can conceive naturally, even if they have severe endometriosis but unfortunately, it is difficult to predict if you'll have difficulty conceiving until you start trying. There are links between endometriosis and complications in early stage pregnancy, but in later stage pregnancy, there is no substantial scientific evidence to say endometriosis causes complications.

Read more about endometriosis and how it can be diagnosed

Endometriosis can affect fertility by causing structural changes, hormonal imbalances, and inflammation in the reproductive organs

Endometriosis is one of the leading causes of female fertility issues. Endometriosis tissue can cause scarring in your uterus which may lead to the formation of adhesions that can impair the release of eggs, block the fallopian tubes, or affect the implantation of a fertilised egg making it difficult to become pregnant. Some people with endometriosis experience ovarian cysts which can affect the ability to conceive, and there is some research to suggest that endometriosis can cause hormonal imbalances that affect the release of eggs.

While endometriosis can make it more challenging to conceive, it doesn't mean that pregnancy is impossible. The severity of the condition, its location, and other individual factors play a role in determining fertility. Seeking the guidance of a fertility specialist can help assess your unique situation and explore treatment for endometriosis to increase your chances of conception.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for endometriosis but there are a number of fertility treatments that can be considered to improve the quality of life and fertility in people with endometriosis, such as hormonal medications, fertility drugs, laparoscopic surgery to remove endometrial tissue, and assisted reproductive technologies like in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). If you have severe endometriosis there is a lower chance of IVF being successful and speaking with a specialist can help you weigh different treatment options.

Once you become pregnant, you may wonder how endometriosis can affect your pregnancy journey

People with endometriosis may be at higher risk of complications, especially in early pregnancy. For example, a slightly higher risk of miscarriage in early stage pregnancy and also a higher risk of ectopic pregnancy compared to those without the condition. During pregnancy, endometriosis symptoms typically subside and most people don't experience endometriosis pain, period pain or other symptoms. This is because your menstrual cycle is what causes lots of the symptoms of endometriosis, and when you are pregnant your cycle is halted.

During later stage pregnancy, there is no scientific evidence to say endometriosis affects the pregnancy or the baby. Most pregnant people with endometriosis will carry the baby to term, but some research does suggest endometriosis is linked with a slightly higher risk of preterm birth, increased risk of preeclampsia, and delivering low birth weight babies. However, with proper medical supervision and care, many people with endometriosis go on to have healthy babies and pregnancies.

You may have heard that endometriosis pain goes away during pregnancy and after childbirth. It's true that endometriosis pain may lessen or even go away; for some people, once the uterus returns to its pre-pregnancy size, hormones shift back to their normal levels and your normal menstrual cycle returns, the endometriosis symptoms can disappear completely. However, this isn't always the case and many people experience a return of their symptoms when they are no longer pregnant or breastfeeding.

Regardless of whether your pain dissipates or persists during pregnancy, it is important to be mindful of how you are feeling and to speak to your doctor if you have any concerns. Pregnancy with endometriosis is possible for most patients and speaking with your GP or Fertifa Patient Advisor will help you decide which route is best for you and your symptoms.

If you're planning to conceive and you have endometriosis, you may want to think about having a discussion with a healthcare professional specialising in reproductive health

They can evaluate your condition, discuss treatment options, and provide guidance on managing symptoms and optimising your chances of getting pregnant. Adopting a healthy lifestyle and making dietary changes may alleviate symptoms and help with the treatment of endometriosis. Regular exercise, managing stress levels, and incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3-rich foods, can support your overall well-being.

Before attempting pregnancy, traditional medical treatments for endometriosis such as hormonal medications or surgical interventions (like keyhole surgery) may be recommended to manage symptoms and improve fertility. Your healthcare provider can guide you in selecting the most suitable treatment plan based on your individual needs.

While endometriosis can pose challenges when it comes to pregnancy, it's important to remember that many people with this condition successfully conceive and have healthy pregnancies. By working closely with healthcare professionals, exploring treatment options, and making informed choices, you can navigate the complexities of endometriosis and increase your chances of starting or expanding your family.

If you suspect you may be experiencing symptoms of endometriosis or that you may have the condition, speak with your GP or Fertifa Patient Advisor for the correct diagnosis and to explore medical treatment options tailored to your specific situation. If you have any further questions feel free to reach out to our in-house clinical team, we are always here to help. 💜