Endometriosis is one of the more common causes of difficulty conceiving for women. (Approximately 35% to 50%). However, this diagnosis is not an absolute barrier to becoming pregnant. Depending on location and severity of the condition, there are things you can do to improve the situation.
Prior to becoming a health practitioner, I had the honor of a friend confide to me that she had endometriosis. She suffered severe pain and cramping and her periods were shockingly heavier and longer I thought possible. As she spilled the beans, it become apparent to me that, while not ready for kids right now, whether she ever would was the thing she most worried about. We were 16. At the time, I couldn't imagine having to worry about that, when I could barely speak to a cute boy, let alone consider baby making. Baby-ready or not, this worry is still a consistent feature of the condition for every woman I have met affected by it.
It is the growth of uterine lining cells in places of the uterus. Typical hideouts for the "implants" include fallopian tubes, ovaries, outer surface of uterus. This run-away tissue grows, gets inflamed, and bleeds every month along with your period.
The most common theory is that it is a result of your period flowing in the wrong direction (i.e. retrograde) - but there are strong arguments for genetics, inflammation, hormone imbalances, etc. The reality is that almost every woman has some backward flow during her periods. It is a medical curiosity why in some women it causes problems when the run-away tissue takes root, and others, it doesn't. I believe it is most likely a combo of all of these factors creating a bodily environment that is "primed" for the condition.
Typically, these women suffer some mix of abnormal menstrual bleeding, severe menstrual cramps, ongoing pelvic pain, low back pain, pain during intercourse and with bowel movements... etc.
How it affects and particular woman's fertility depends on the severity of the condition and where luck would have the run-away tissue land. If it lands in your fallopian tubes, which as small and tiny, the resulting traffic jam can impede the egg from ever meeting the sperm. Depending on the size of the traffic jam, surgery may be required, but small jams can be improved significantly with the right dietary/lifestyle supports and natural and pharmaceutical medications designed to modulate estrogen levels.
Anti-inflammatory diets, exercise, stress reduction, chaste-tree, black cohosh, indole-3-carbinols, and red clover have roles and benefits here when used correctly and with the guidance of a trusted practitioner. Acupuncture also has documented benefit.
Addressing underlying hormonal and inflammatory risk factors in many cases is enough to significantly reduce symptoms and improve chances of successfully becoming pregnant. I have personally seen that diet and lifestyle changes can make the lion's share of the difference and I cannot stress to you how important they are! Combine that with a little extra medicine and you've got a powerful combo. It will take time and effort to get you feeling better and your body moving towards health, but it's worth it! And you'll know it when you look into the eyes of your little girl! Or Boy! Or... twins? lol.
Discussion Questions: If you have knowledge of struggle or success stories of pregnancy with endometriosis, please share them in the comments! More women than you know are looking for support and to know they are not alone in this. (Please be respectful and use your best judgement with people's identities... name changing = smiled upon unless it's your story and you want people to know.)
Photo Credit: Joey Thompson
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