Once a woman with endometriosis does conceive, either naturally or with the help of artificial reproductive techniques, the condition can have an impact on fetal health as well.
What is endometriosis? How does it affect fertility?
Endometriosis is a condition in which the endometrium, the tissue that lines the uterus, grows in other parts of the reproductive system. Endometrial tissues can grow in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder and intestines, cervix, vagina, and in other places inside the abdominal cavity. The uterine lining is there to create a suitable environment for a newly fertilized egg when it implants, and it most of it is either reabsorbed by the body or expelled during menstruation. The additional endometrial tissue that populates pelvic organs other than the uterus still participates in the menstrual cycle, but it cannot always leave the body, so cysts and scars may form as a result. It is no surprise that endometriosis can cause a lot of pain. There are other symptoms too, however. Women who suffer from endometriosis will generally experience a selection of the following symptoms, to various degrees:
- Pelvic pain and back pain
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Irregular menstrual cycles and bleeding
- Bloating and constipation
- Depression, anxiety, and fatigue
Conceiving naturally with endometriosis is often a struggle. A large number of women who suffer from the condition will deal with infertility. These women will need either fertility treatment or surgery to remove currently existing endometriosis lesions in order to conceive. Surgery is not a permanent solution to endometriosis, and fertility treatments can cause their own risks. Those women who are hoping to conceive a baby are best off discussing their options and having a full pelvic examination to determine the exist of the endometriosis with a competent medical professional before they try to conceive.
Effects of endometriosis during pregnancy
Many women who suffer from endometriosis report that their symptoms are significantly less invasive during their pregnancies, clearly because they do not experience menstrual cycles while they are expecting a baby. Not having periods is a blessing for any pregnant woman, but especially so for one who has suffered from painful, heavy and prolonged periods.
So, there is good news when it comes to endometriosis and pregnancy. Unfortunately, there is also bad news. One large Swedish study shows that women who suffer from endometriosis are much more likely to either go into labor prematurely themselves, or to have labor induced prematurely due to placental complications among other reasons. Researchers found this risk to exist regardless of whether the woman conceived naturally or with fertility treatments. Pregnant women with endometriosis were also found to be more likely to need a cesarean section to deliver their baby, and may have an increased risk of the life-threatening pregnancy complication preeclampsia as well.
The findings led researchers to recommend that expectant mothers who suffer from endometriosis are monitored more heavily than other women. You may benefit from seeking out a obstetrician/gynecologist who has experience with pregnant endometriosis patients. The other issue is that women with endometriosis are said to go through more painful labors than other women. I am not aware of any scientific evidence that indicates this to be true, but have read too many stories and forum posts from mothers who have endometriosis to believe that this is a coincidence If labor pain is something that worries you, you can discuss your pain relief options with your healthcare provider in advance.
What will happen after pregnancy? Although there is no way to tell how having been pregnant will affect your endometriosis in the future, some women report that their endometriosis symptoms permanently improve after they have had a baby. This is a nice hope to have while you are pregnant, for sure! One thing that every woman should keep in mind is that there are no guarantees. If you hear that pregnancy is one way to "treat" your endometriosis, do not take that claim seriously. Unless this claim is made by a doctor, of course in which case you can take the statement as a nice indicator to find a new doctor. We would love to hear from women who have personal experience with endometrios and pregnancy. How did you experience your pregnancy? Did you have a preterm birth or a c-section? How painful was your labor if you went through labor? And how have your endometriosis symptoms been since your pregnancy? Please leave a comment!