I think most of you know that we are not able to have our own children. I had my first laparoscopy in 2000 when my doctor found severe endometriosis. Because of where my adhesions were located, this meant that pregnancy would be next to impossible and that I needed treatments to remove the adhesions and keep the disease from advancing further. The next 4 years were full of injections, drugs, surgeries, pain, and tests. I had 5 doctors and 4 surgeries in three years. My final surgery was a complete hysterectomy in October of 2003. It is the only cure for the disease.
Endometriosis is a chronic condition that affects more than 5.5 million women in the United States and Canada. About 40% of patients with endometriosis will experience some degree of infertility.
Endometriosis is a disorder of the female reproductive system in which endometrial tissue (the normal lining of the uterus) is found outside the uterine cavity. An estimated three to five million American women of reproductive age suffer from endometriosis. This disease is prevalent in women 30-40 years of age, though it can begin in the late teens and early twenties. It not only affects your reproductive system, but theadhesions can grow on other organs and cause severe medical issues. My adhesions grew on my lower intestine, ate holes in my diaphragm, and grew onto my lungs, causing scarring on my lung tissue. It also made my uterus and ovaries to “malfunction” and cause infertility.
About 40% of patients with endometriosis will experience some degree of infertility.
The relationship between endometriosis and infertility is not completely understood. The primary cause of infertility resulting from endometriosis appears to be a blockage caused by scarring and adhesions in the tubes. These adhesions can prevent the egg and sperm from meeting or prevent the fertilized egg from moving down the tube normally (resulting in an ectopic pregnancy).
Another theory is that infertility associated with mild endometriosis is caused by an autoimmune reaction. It is speculated that tissue from the uterus that implants outside the uterus is viewed as a foreign cell by the woman’s body, which then responds with an immune defense reaction.
Another theory is based on the fact that women with endometriosis have more peritoneal fluid and higher prostaglandin levels. The increased prostaglandin production may influence normal tubal function and prevent normal transport of the egg and sperm through the fallopian tube to the uterus.
Other researchers feel that endometriosis can cause a luteal phase defect, which results from low levels of the hormone progesterone or a poor build-up of the uterine lining after ovulation. A luteal phase defect makes it difficult for the fertilized egg to implant.
Some studies report as high as a 36% spontaneous abortion rate in women with endometriosis versus 15% in the normal population.
March in National Endometriosis Awareness month. If you know someone with the disease, give them a hug, lend a hand, and help them get educated on their options. Most of all, be supportive…that is the best treatment of all.
To learn more, check out the Endometriosis Association’s website. Check out the comments to this post as well…Lola listed some great links! Thanks, Lola!