Endometriosis has been in the spotlight lately, with multiple celebrities like Lena Dunham and Julianne Hough coming forward about their struggles with the disease. But while many people are now aware of endometriosis, there is still plenty of confusion surrounding what it is – and what it means for your fertility. So what is endometriosis? And how can it impact your health? The fertility experts of UNC Fertility in Raleigh, North Carolina are here to discuss endometriosis and its impact on fertility.

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that makes up your uterine lining (endometrium) begins to migrate to places it shouldn’t be – mainly outside of the uterus. While endometrial cells are usually found in the pelvis and abdomen, endometrial cells can wander even further throughout the body. Typically, this affects women in their reproductive years, with symptoms often increasing in severity around a woman’s period.

The Symptoms of Endometriosis

Mild discomfort during parts of your menstrual cycle is perfectly normal, but the 1 in 10 women dealing with endometriosis often experience pain that can interfere with their day to day activities. While most women with endometriosis will see their symptoms worsen when they’re on their period, others will experience symptoms at other times during their cycle or not show any symptoms at all.

Women with endometriosis can experience:

  • Seriously Painful Periods: different from regular menstrual cramps, the period pain experienced by patients with endometriosis can be completely incapacitating.
  • GI Issues: Endometriosis that has migrated to the GI tract can cause severe cramping, bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain and constipation, especially around your period.
  • Frequent Bathroom Breaks: If you find yourself running to the bathroom constantly during your period, endometrial lesions may have formed on the bladder.
  • Increased Bleeding: Very heavy periods, sometimes with clots, can be a result of the endometrial growths reacting to hormones your ovaries produce during your cycle.
  • Pain When Breathing: Endometrial cells can move to a woman’s diaphragm, causing painful breathing and intense discomfort when trying to move the upper body or upper arms during menstruation.

Women with endometriosis often suffer with their symptoms in silence, as many of them are undiagnosed and untreated. If you have experienced the symptoms of endometriosis, contact the fertility specialists at UNC Fertility at 919-908-0000 to schedule a consultation with a specialist.

Endometriosis and Fertility

It’s estimated that between 30% and 40% of women with endometriosis will have trouble achieving a pregnancy. Depending on how far the disease has progressed, endometriosis can negatively impact a woman’s fertility. Endometrial lesions located in the fallopian tubes can make it difficult for a man’s sperm to connect with a woman’s egg, while lesions on the ovaries can keep an egg from escaping the ovaries to be fertilized.  Even in cases where there is little or no scarring in the fallopian tubes or ovaries, endometriosis can make conception difficult. A woman typically has a 20% chance of conceiving each month, but endometriosis may make that chance drop as low as 10%.

Diagnosing Endometriosis

Except in rare cases, the only way for your doctor to diagnose you with endometriosis would be through laparoscopy. This is a minor procedure in which a scope is inserted into your abdomen to look for endometrial cells and lesions growing outside the uterus. While performing laparoscopy, your physician can also treat any endometriosis by removing the lesions.

For women concerned about the impact of endometriosis on their fertility, it is important to catch and treat it early on. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned each month during your period, we encourage you to contact the fertility experts of UNC Fertility at 919-908-0000 or request an appointment to be tested for endometriosis.