Endometriosis and Fertility
(Purchase, NY) March is National Endometriosis Awareness Month. According to the Endometriosis Awareness Center, approximately 5.5 million women in the United States are affected by the disease, for which there is no definitive cure. While endometriosis is better understood than many other disorders that affect fertility, it’s not known exactly what causes it in the first place.
It is estimated that one third to one half of women with endometriosis will have difficulty getting pregnant. John Rapisarda, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist at Fertility Centers of Illinois, a member of the Attain Fertility® Network, says that while those numbers can be discouraging, women with the disorder should take heart. “With fertility treatments such as ovarian stimulation or in vitro fertilization, chances are very good that a woman will have a baby,” he says.
There are many factors that may relate to the cause of endometriosis though it is still not clearly understood why some women develop the disorder and others do not. Some of the factors include:
- A family history of endometriosis
- Not having had any children or pregnancies
- Heavy menstrual periods lasting more than one week on average
- A uterine or vaginal abnormality or obstruction preventing normal blood flow during menstruation
- Autoimmune disease
- Chemical sensitivity and exposure to dioxins
- Frequent yeast infections
- Mitral valve prolapse (a condition that causes one of the heart’s valves to close loosely instead of snugly)
- Some cancers, including ovarian, breast, endocrine, thyroid, brain, colon, kidney, melanoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
The most common symptom that women with endometriosis experience is pain. However, many women do not experience symptoms at all. Symptoms include:
- Pain, including severe cramping during menstruation
- Chronic nagging discomfort or pain in the pelvic area and lower back
- Pain during and/or after sexual activity
- Pain in the intestines
- Painful bowel movements and/or urination
- Diarrhea, bloating, or constipation
- Nausea during menstruation
- Spotting between menstrual periods
Women who feel that they may be at risk for endometriosis or who experience symptoms, especially those who are trying to become pregnant, should see a gynecologist or a reproductive endocrinologist to get a definitive diagnosis. In addition, Dr. Rapisarda recommends that women who receive a diagnosis and want to start a family should not delay getting pregnant. “Along with the fact that age plays a significant role in a women’s ability to conceive, endometriosis can become progressively worse over time if untreated,” he explains.
In the past surgery was routinely recommended for women with endometriosis. “We would routinely remove cysts from ovaries. But we have learned that this doesn’t necessarily enhance fertility and may, in fact, have an adverse effect. We have learned that if the cysts are small, it is often better not to remove them, therefor not putting the ovaries at risk. We just go ahead with fertility treatments, with great success,” said Dr. Rapisarda.
Among the recommended fertility treatments for women with endometriosis are:
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI) and Clomid to bolster ovulation
- In vitro fertilization (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). In
Although there isn’t a cure for endometriosis, lifestyle changes play an important role in reducing symptoms and lowering the risk of getting the disease. Diet and exercise lead the way. While introducing daily exercise increases fitness and helps to alleviate symptoms, maintaining a healthy diet and body weight and good nutrition can actually reduce the risk of endometriosis.
Attain Fertility will actively promote awareness, education and support for women throughout March for National Endometriosis Awareness Month. Discussions, information and support can be found on the Attain Fertility Facebook page and through blog posts from leading medical experts on the AttainFertility.com website.
About IntegraMed America, Inc.
IntegraMed is a leader in developing, marketing and managing specialty outpatient healthcare facilities, with a current focus on the fertility and vein care markets. IntegraMed supports its provider networks with clinical and business information systems, marketing and sales, facilities and operations management, finance and accounting, human resources, legal, risk management, quality assurance, and fertility treatment financing programs.
Attain Fertility Network, an IntegraMed Specialty, is the nation’s largest fertility center network, with 14 company-managed partner centers and 28 affiliate centers, comprising over 130 locations across 34 states and the District of Columbia. Nearly one of every four IVF procedures in the U.S. is performed in an Attain Fertility Centers network practice.
Vein Clinics of America, an IntegraMed Specialty, is the leading provider of specialty vein care services in the U.S. The IntegraMed Vein Clinic network operates 44 centers across 14 states, principally in the Midwest and Southeast.