Happy March! Spring is just around the corner and here at Intend, we are excited for the nice weather and promise of sunnier days.
In the United States, March is both Women’s History Month as well as Endometriosis Awareness Month. It seems like a good time to explore endometriosis, something that affects ~10% of reproductive-aged women. Women’s health is something that is being increasingly researched and explored, which is great considering how important it is for women to understand their own bodies.
Today’s blog dives into what endometriosis is, what causes it, and what treatment options are available. This blog post is not intended to offer medical advice, but rather to educate and inform on this topic.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a gynecological disease in which the tissue that lines the uterus (or the “endometrium”) grows outside of the uterus. This tissue builds up and breaks down, just as the tissue on the inner lining, in response to hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle. This causes bleeding inside the pelvis that leads to inflammation, swelling, and scarring of the normal tissue.
Usually endometriosis occurs in the pelvic area, but it can occasionally spread further.
What causes endometriosis?
It is still unknown what causes endometriosis. One theory called “retrograde menstruation” suggests that a kind of reverse menstruation occurs; as blood and tissue travel through the fallopian tubes to the abdomen, tissue gets blocked up and begins to grow.
Another theory called “coelomic metaplasia” suggests that cells anywhere in the body may transform into endometrial cells, which may explain cases in which endometriosis pops up in locations other than the pelvic region.
A third theory suggests that endometrial tissue can travel via blood channels to other points in the body and spread that way, similar to how cancer cells spread.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
Symptoms of endometriosis may include:
Lower abdomen or pelvic pain
Excessive menstrual cramps
Abnormal or heavy menstrual flow
Pain during intercourse
Pain with bowel movements
Difficulty getting pregnant/infertility
While these are some of the common symptoms, some women with endometriosis do not have any symptoms at all. It is important to speak with your doctor if you are worried you might have endometriosis, to get a proper diagnosis.
What happens when you have endometriosis?
Endometriosis is considered one of the top three causes of female infertility. According to the ASRM (American Society for Reproductive Medicine), 24-50% of women who experience infertility have endometriosis. This infertility can range from temporary to permanent.
What are the treatment options?
There is a minimally invasive surgical procedure called laparoscopy that can be used to diagnose and treat endometriosis; this procedure involves using a larascope ( a thin tube with a lens and a light) to look into the woman’s pelvis and remove endometrial growths.
For more minor cases, anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen and/or hormonal medication like birth control pills can help ease pain. Other simple tips to help alleviate pain include rest/relaxation, warm baths, exercise, and heating pads.
Sometimes a combination of these treatments and more is necessary. It is important to discuss any treatment options thoroughly with your health care provider to find what might be right for you.
A significant portion of women who experience infertility have endometriosis. We hope this blog post was helpful in learning just a bit about this relevant condition. Whether you are an intended parent with personal experience with endometriosis or on the other side as a donor, it is helpful and important to understand some of the things that people go through in the fertility world.
- Intend Egg Donors
Johns Hopkins University – Endometriosis UCLA Health – Endometriosis: Symptoms, Treatments, and Diagnosis Mayo Clinic – Endometriosis Overview