Endometriosis, or endo, is a common health condition in women where certain tissues grow outside of the uterus, causing pain and, often, infertility. Endo affects more than 11% of American women between 15 and 44, though it is most common for women in their 30s and 40s. Though this health condition is debilitating, several treatment options can help women get pregnant.
What Is Endometriosis & Who Gets It?
Endometriosis occurs when the endometrium, the tissue that usually lines the uterus, starts to grow outside of the uterus in places it does not belong, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and other outer surfaces like the vagina, cervix, vulva, bowel, bladder, or rectum.
Endometriosis can happen to any woman of menstruating age but most often affects older women. Approximately 10% of reproductive-aged women have endometriosis. However, the number is likely higher since diagnosis requires surgery and biopsy. 12-32% of women having surgery for pelvic pain and 50% of women having surgery for infertility discover that they have endometriosis.
Your endo risk is higher if you have a family member with the conditions, have short or long menstrual cycles, or suffer from a health condition that blocks blood flow during periods.
Symptom Reduction & Treatment Options
There are many symptoms of endo, but perhaps the most common one is pain. Women with endometriosis suffer from painful menstrual cramps, chronic lower back and pelvis pain, pain during sexual intercourse, intestinal pain, painful bowel movements, and bleeding between periods. Endo pain will often worsen before and during a period and then lessen.
In addition to pain, many women with endo struggle with infertility or do not get pregnant. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), approximately 40% of people with infertility also have endometriosis.
Can Endo Be Treated?
The short answer is: yes. However, to treat endo, there must be a diagnosis, which can be invasive. Some doctors may diagnose endometriosis based on symptoms alone; however, to formally diagnose endometriosis, a doctor must perform laparoscopy surgery and biopsy of the tissues. The unfortunate reality is that most women go undiagnosed, and it can take around ten years to receive a diagnosis.
There is no cure for endometriosis, but there are several treatment options you can discuss with your medical team, including medicine, surgery, and natural approaches.
If you are not trying to get pregnant, hormonal birth control may ease many of your symptoms; however, if you are trying to get pregnant, a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist is usually what is offered. GnRH medicine stops the body from making the hormones responsible for ovulation, the menstrual cycle, and endometriosis growth. This treatment helps control endometriosis growth for a temporary period, assisting women to get pregnant later on after their menstrual cycle returns.
Additionally, for mild symptoms, you may be able to take over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen.
Surgery For Endometriosis
Surgery is a last resort option for those with severe pain where another therapy is not working. Surgery can diagnose endometriosis and treat it by locating and removing the endometriosis lesions. The removal of the tissue can alleviate pain and help some women with endometriosis to become pregnant.
Some people claim that natural remedies like acupuncture, chiropractic care, herbs, or supplements, such as thiamine (vitamin B1), magnesium, or omega-3 fatty acids, help their condition, but the scientific jury is still out. Additionally, a 2004 study suggests that a brown seaweed called bladderwrack may have an estrogen-reducing effect in women, which slows endometriosis.
Unfortunately, many US couples struggle to conceive, and without proper medical care, diagnosis, and treatment, many women are unaware that they have endometriosis until they experience fertility issues.
At The Gift of Parenthood organization, we hope to increase awareness and treatment of endometriosis, a condition that our founder Teresa talks candidly about on social media. We strive to help couples, and individuals struggling with infertility achieve their dreams of becoming parents through fertility assistance grants ranging from $1,000 to $16,000, available four times a year.
Will you be our next grant recipient? Apply today.
Sending so much love to our #endowarriors