What is endometriosis?
If you have endometriosis, you probably know that it can sometimes affect fertility and cause severely painful menstrual cycles. However, with the absence of the menstrual cycle, how does pregnancy affect endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a disorder where a type of tissue that typically grows inside the uterus starts growing outside of the uterus. Often, it grows in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the tissue inside the pelvis. It can also grow outside of the pelvic area, but this is extremely rare.
Some of the other signs and symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Period pain. You may experience cramps and pelvic pain for days before and during your period. You may experience pain that extends into the lower back or general abdominal pains.
- Painful intercourse. A common symptom of endometriosis could be pain before, during, or after sexual intercourse.
- Pain during elimination or urination. These symptoms are usually accompanied by painful menstrual cycles.
- Heavy periods. If you have endometriosis, you might experience excessive or more serious menstrual bleeding. Your bleeding may continue in between your periods.
- Trouble getting pregnant. Most women find out that they have endometriosis because they are seeking infertility treatment.
- Various symptoms. There are a host of other signs you can experience, particularly during menstruation. These symptoms can include diarrhea, fatigue, constipation, bloating, or nausea.
Endometriosis cases are often mild, but still cause severe symptoms or pain. If you have serious symptoms, it may make you worry about your chances of getting pregnant. However, the severity of the symptoms does not always line up with the seriousness of your condition.
The causes of endometriosis are not entirely understood, nor are its risk factors. It's possible that it's caused by menstrual issues, genetic factors, hormonal issues, or immune problems. Treatment for endometriosis centers around symptom management, which typically just looks like pain management.
Endometriosis and fertility
Endometriosis is quite common. Around 11% of all women have it, most between the ages of thirty and forty. Many women with severe endometriosis will have difficulty getting pregnant because the abnormal tissue can cause:
- Scar tissue
- Blocking in the ovary releasing eggs
- Blocking in the fallopian tubes
- Difficulties with the functioning of the fallopian tubes
In cases of mild endometriosis, it's not always possible to understand the cause of infertility. It's generally thought that infertility is caused by inflammation in the reproductive system.
It's possible to both treat your symptoms and get pregnant when you have endometriosis. Most women with endometriosis will be able to get pregnant without any sort of treatment. Other women might try IVF treatments or other fertility options.
Endometriosis and pregnancy
Your endometriosis symptoms may subside during pregnancy because your menstrual cycle has stopped. However, this is not every woman’s experience, and some continue to have endometriosis symptoms while pregnant.
Endometriosis Risks During Pregnancy
The research on whether endometriosis puts women at an increased risk for complications during pregnancy is split. Some research suggests that there are no risks or effects of endometriosis on pregnancy; other research suggests the opposite and that endometriosis can lead to complications like miscarriage, ectopic bleeding, placenta praevia, early birth, and bleeding.
We know that the majority of women with endometriosis have normal, uncomplicated, and healthy pregnancies. However, understanding your endometriosis and going to regular check-ups for this condition and your pregnancy will help you detect if and how it's affecting your pregnancy.
Symptom Management During Pregnancy
If you experience endometriosis symptoms while pregnant, you can help manage the pain with:
- Over-the-counter pain management. Speak to your doctor about what medication is best for you and your condition
- Low-impact exercises and stretches
- Fiber-rich foods to regulate bowel movements
- Warm baths
- Heating pads
Some research suggests that the boost of progesterone during pregnancy can eliminate endometriosis symptoms. However, some women might continue to experience symptoms due to an increase in estrogen which can result in endometrial growth.
If you are pregnant, you should regularly check in with your doctor about your pregnancy, and this is just as important if you have endometriosis. Remember that your endometriosis may not affect your pregnancy — don't let your worries cause you unnecessary fear and stress! Effects of endometriosis on pregnancy are rare, and most women with endometriosis have healthy pregnancies and births.
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Center for Women's Health: "How Will Pregnancy Affect My Endometriosis Symptoms?"
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