Endometriosis and pregnancy aren’t always the best of friends. Even if you’ve avoided the other extremely un-fun symptoms of this condition (think extra-heavy periods, extra-painful period cramps, pain after sex…), you might still find it impacts your fertility.
But, many women with endometriosis do go on to get pregnant and give birth to healthy babies. Some just need more time; others need treatment. Either way, there is definitely hope.
So, let’s talk more about the relationship between pregnancy and endometriosis.
Endometriosis and pregnancy 101
What is endometriosis? A super-quick summary
Endometriosis occurs when the tissue lining your uterus (the endometrium) doesn’t stay in your uterus. Instead, patches of it start growing in other parts of your body, such as your ovaries, fallopian tubes, bowels, bladder, and behind your uterus.
Symptoms of endometriosis vary from woman to woman, but they tend to hit the hardest during your period. They include: heavy periods, pain in your abdomen, pain when peeing or pooping, and feeling nauseous.
It’s estimated that more than 11% of women in the US aged 15–44 have endometriosis, and it’s most common to get it when you’re in your 30s or 40s. The only way to diagnose it for sure is to look inside your body using a laparoscope (a long, thin tube with a camera on it).
Medical experts still aren’t sure what causes the condition. As it runs in families, they think there might be a genetic cause. But it could also be an issue with blood flow during your period, your immune system, or your hormones.
So, can you have a baby if you have endometriosis?
Yes, there’s a really good chance you can.
Cards on the table. If your dream is to get pregnant and endometriosis is a part of your life, you may face some extra challenges. You see, it’s thought that around half of women who experience reproductive struggles have endometriosis.
But, it’s also estimated that 60–70% of women with the condition can get pregnant – without needing any treatment. And that includes women who have severe endometriosis.
What’s the link between endometriosis and reproductive struggles?
It’s not always clear why endometriosis makes it harder for some women with the condition to have a baby.
With severe endometriosis, it’s possible that the rogue endometrium patches may have damaged your ovaries or blocked access to the fallopian tubes. This then prevents that crucial meeting between sperm and egg.
Or, with milder endometriosis, it’s thought that the condition might cause inflammation that can damage an egg or sperm cell inside your body.
But more research is required to give women with endometriosis the answers they need.
How can you improve your chance of conceiving with endometriosis?
Treatments that may help you have a baby when you have endometriosis include:
- Medications, including progestins, help boost the level of pregnancy hormones in your body.
- Surgery to remove the patches of tissue.
- Fertility treatments, such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI).
If you have endometriosis (or you suspect you have it) and you’re struggling to conceive, make an appointment with your doctor. They’ll be able to assess your fertility, work out if there are any other health issues to consider, and discuss your options with you.
How does endometriosis affect pregnancy?
Now for a particularly tough bit. If you become pregnant with endometriosis, you do have an increased risk of pregnancy loss.
Can endometriosis cause miscarriage? While it’s not exactly a case of cause-and-effect, it’s been shown that women with endometriosis have an above-average chance of experiencing a miscarriage. The same is true of endometriosis and ectopic pregnancy (where the fertilized egg implants somewhere that isn’t your uterus).
Later in pregnancy, you might also have a slightly increased risk of preeclampsia and preterm birth. But your doctor will watch you carefully so they can manage any issues that arise.
A little bit of good news. Perhaps you’re wondering, What happens to endometriosis during pregnancy? Will I still get symptoms? Well, as your periods stop during pregnancy, that means many women get relief from the pain during that time. Unfortunately, the symptoms can return once your periods start again.
Endometriosis and pregnancy and you
We know that living with endometriosis can be a challenge at the best of times. Even without the heartache of struggling to conceive.
But, there’s still hope that a baby is in your future, with the right treatment – or perhaps a few extra months of trying.
In the meantime, sharing your hopes and heartache with other women on the same journey can help. You’re absolutely not alone.