Endometriosis Fertility Treatments

Endometriosis is a condition when the endometrium, the tissue lining the inside of the uterus, is found outside the uterus and even in other parts of the inner abdomen. Usually it only grows inside the uterus in preparation for pregnancy and is shed off and out of the body as menstruation if there is no pregnancy.

Like regular endometrium cells, the ones that grow outside the uterus are also affected by female hormones. This means these cells build up, break down and shed each month. But unlike the cells inside the uterus, the ones outside the uterus and in the inner abdomen can't leave the body. This means they can stick to other tissue, divide and multiply. They can also grow into other tissue and form strands that bind organs together. Sometimes the cells can create cysts that can rupture and bleed. Other times the cells create painful scar tissue.

Statistics on how common the disease is varies. But it's generally believed that 10 to 15 percent of women between the ages of 25 and 44 have endometriosis. It can also be a cause of infertility. Approximately one quarter to as high as one half of infertile women have endometriosis.

Diagnosing Endometriosis

There are symptoms of endometriosis that can suggest a woman has the disease, but the only way to know for sure is to perform a surgical procedure called a laparoscopy. With this procedure the doctor makes a small incision in the belly button and inserts a telescope-like instrument that allows visualization of the internal organs including the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes.

Getting Pregnant

The ability to get pregnant with endometriosis varies depending on the severity of the disease. There are three stages: mild, moderate and severe. Mild endometriosis can cause infertility but some doctors suggest the connection between mild endometriosis and infertility hasn't been established.

Women with moderate endometriosis can be treated with less invasive alternative reproductive technology assuming there is no damage to their tubes and that their ovaries are producing eggs. For pregnancy to be achieved, the woman needs to have an undamaged uterus. A misshapen uterus or one that's damaged by scar tissue can make it difficult or impossible for an embryo to implant.

Severe endometriosis is more difficult to treat. The cell growth is significant and there can be serious pelvic scarring. Distortion of the pelvic anatomy is not uncommon which can make it impossible to become pregnant and carry a baby to term. Tubes can become damaged or blocked and if there are cysts in and on the ovaries, these cysts can damage the ovaries so much that egg quality and quantity is reduced.

Fertility treatments for mild and moderate endometriosis can include controlled ovarian hyperstimulation with intrauterine insemination. If a successful pregnancy doesn't happen after six tries, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is considered.

Pregnancy rates for severe endometriosis are low. Those with a severe level of this condition tend to have distorted pelvic anatomy which makes it difficult to impossible to conceive. If IVF is used, there can be a low rate of successful embryo implantation.

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