Diagnosis: Infertility Caused By Endometriosis
What Endometriosis Means and Its Impact on Fertility
Endometriosis is a condition in which endometrial tissue (the tissue that lines your uterus during your cycle and is shed during menstruation) occurs outside of the uterus. It can be found pretty much anywhere inside your pelvic cavity: fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, bowel, etc. The adhesions can cause varying levels of pain during menstruation or intercourse, from no pain at all to debilitating pain. As the adhesions grow they can impact thetissues they are on. Endometrial adhesions on the ovaries can cause endometrial cysts (called endometrioma). Adhesions on the bladder or bowel can infiltrate and obstruct. Adhesions on the fallopian tubes can infiltrate or constrict and result in scar tissue forming. In addition, scar tissue on the fallopian tube can prevent eggs from passing into the uterus to implant (which can lead to an ectopic pregnancy). Endometrioma can affect ovulation and scar tissue on the uterus can prevent implantation or lead to miscarriage and premature labor.
There are varying levels of endometriosis, from level 1 which usually causes no symptoms to level 4 which can seriously impede fertility.
Endometriosis cannot be seen on ultrasound or diagnosed with blood testsor pap smears. The only way to diagnose endometriosis is to undergo laparoscopic surgery. During the surgery, a small incision is made in the abdomen for a tiny camera and a second incision is made to facilitate a tube used to pump air into the abdomen. Inflating the abdomen allows more space and a better view of tissues. During surgery the adhesions can be removed.
Many doctors will also recommend Lupron injections. Lupron basically “kills” the adhesions by halting the growth for 6 months. Endometriosis is also controlled with birth control pills. Birth control pills can be used to treat symptoms or to prevent/control a reoccurrence after surgery.
My endometriosis was level 4, affecting one ovary with a large endometrioma. The endometrioma pulled that ovary down and behind my uterus and twisted the fallopian tube. There was also a small adhesion to my bladder. I had debilitating pain during menstruation–it was so bad that I couldn’t walk and often vomited from the extreme pain which was not reduced by any OTC or prescription painkiller. My laparoscopic surgery lasted over 3 hours (I was scheduled for 1 hour of OR time) to remove all the adhesions and re-anchor my ovary where it belonged. I had spent 5 years on triphasic birth control pills, which kept me symptom-free for the duration. I chose against Lupron because I didn’t feel the side effects were worth it for me.