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All you need to know
Endometriosis affects roughly 10% of women of reproductive age globally, which is approximately 190 million women worldwide. 3 This makes it one of the most common conditions that affect the reproductive system, with 1 in 10 women being affected.
In this article, we will explain what endometriosis is and outline the following:
Symptoms of endometriosis
Treatment for endometriosis
How endometriosis affects your ability to get pregnant
How endometriosis impacts your IVF success
Endometriosis is a condition where cells similar to those located in the womb's lining grow in other places of the body, such as the ovaries or fallopian tubes.1
Each month, these cells react to the changing hormone levels in the same way as the ones in the womb's lining: by breaking down and being removed as a period bleed. However, the endometriosis cells that are not in the womb's lining cannot be removed from the body as they should be and instead build up in the body. This in turn causes inflammation, pain and the formation of scar tissue.
In the UK, 1.5 million women and those assigned female at birth are diagnosed with endometriosis. 1 It can affect women of any age, including teenagers and women going through menopause.
Endometriosis can affect a person's life in significant ways, such as chronic pain, lack of energy, depression and an impact on daily life.
The symptoms of endometriosis may vary between individuals and depend on the severity of the condition. Some women may be affected badly, whereas others are less so.
Some common symptoms of endometriosis include:
Currently, there is no treatment for endometriosis. However, the symptoms usually can be well managed. Treatments for symptoms of endometriosis include:
Painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol are often the first line of treatment, to help manage the pain.
Hormonal medication and contraception such as the pill, IUD or implant, alter your hormones in such a way that you no longer have periods. In this way, the endometriosis-affected tissues don't have to be removed either and don't cause pain.
Either cutting away the areas or endometriosis tissue, or to remove part or all of the organs affected by endometriosis, such as part of your colon, appendix or womb (called a hysterectomy).
Endometriosis does not directly cause infertility, but it is often associated with difficulties in conceiving with up to 30-50% of women with endometriosis experiencing infertility. 5
However, even for women with severe endometriosis, natural conception is still possible. It is estimated that 60-70% of those with endometriosis can get pregnant spontaneously. 4
Laparoscopy surgery has been shown to improve pregnancy rates. During the surgery, patches of endometriosis tissues are removed, which allows successful ovulation, fertilisation and/or implantation.
Will fertility treatment help me get pregnant if I have endometriosis?
Assisted reproductive technologies, such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilisation (IVF) can help conception for women with endometriosis. If endometriosis is mild, IUI with a low level of medical stimulation of the ovaries has been found useful. 6 IVF is recommended to improve chances of getting pregnant especially if infertility is due to blocked fallopian tubes. 6
IVF is when an egg is fertilised outside of the body. The ovaries are stimulated to produce more eggs than usual by taking fertility medications. Then, the eggs are collected from the ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory. The resulting embryo is then returned to the womb to grow and develop.
What are the success rates of IVF for women with endometriosis?
For severe endometriosis, the chances of IVF success without prior laparoscopy is around 29%. A combination of both approaches may give a success rate of up to 46.9%. 7
The course of treatment will depend on individual medical histories and your doctor will help you navigate your IVF treatment.
At Apricity, we deliver personalised, expert care to support you at every step of your fertility journey. Our trusted team of fertility doctors and dedicated fertility advisors are here to answer your medical questions and guide you through your fertility treatment.
Where can I find the support I need?
There are many support groups, including:
Regional support groups
Endometriosis forums on Facebook
If you're in distress and need someone to talk to, you can call the Samaritans' 24-hour emotional support line in full confidence: 116 123.
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