'Can I Still Have A Family If I Have Endometriosis?'

'Can I Still Have A Family If I Have Endometriosis?'

Does a woman’s fertility get affected with this painful condition? Read on to find out more.

Every woman gets to experience motherhood only once in her lifetime—no matter how many kids she has, if any. While some women are able to choose whether or not to bear children, there are also others longing for motherhood but are unable to. There are some conditions that make it even tougher for her—and endometriosis is just one of them. If you are thinking of starting a family, here is all you need to know about endometriosis and pregnancy risks, amongst other pressing questions you might have.

What Is Endometriosis?

In 2019, endometriosis emerged from obscurity to become a major topic of discussion, and for good reason. Endometriosis affects an estimated 10 percent of women in Australia – that’s more than 730,000 and includes many high-profile Australians, from Bachelorette Angie Kent to model Jennifer Hawkins. Yet there are still many questions surrounding the condition, including what it means for women hoping to start a family.

Endometriosis is more than just a painful period. On average, it takes seven to ten years for women to be diagnosed, if at all, due to a lot of misinformation about what is normal. This means many women in Australia not only live with chronic pain, but aren’t treated for a condition that can cause significant damage to the reproductive system.

So what is endometriosis? Endometriosis occurs when cells similar to those from uterine lining called the endometrium grow outside their normal region and onto areas such as the fallopian tubes, ovaries, pelvic side wall and ligaments. The condition often causes chronic pain but can be very hard to diagnose without surgery.

With much confusion still present about what the disease means for a woman’s fertility, I’ve answered a few of the most commonly asked questions I receive at the clinic to help provide some clarity about the condition.   

I think I might have endometriosis, what should I be looking for?
 
If you think you may have endometriosis, be on the lookout for its common symptoms. These include painful and/or heavy periods, painful sex, unusual spotting or bleeding, lower back pain, bleeding during bowel movements, bowel discomfort and/or trouble falling pregnant. In some cases, genetics contributes to endometriosis with family history predicting reoccurrence in younger generations. Endometriosis is often classified as mild, moderate or severe, and recorded in surgical notes as stage or grade I – IV.
  • Mild or stage/grade I endometriosis appears as small patches or surface lesions scattered around the pelvic cavity.
  • Moderate or stage/grade I or II endometriosis appears as larger widespread disease often found on the ovaries, uterosacral ligaments and Pouch of Douglas. There can also be significant scarring and adhesions.
  • Severe or stage/grade IV endometriosis affects most of the pelvic organs, often with adhesions and distortion of the reproductive anatomy including fallopian tubes.
How do I get a diagnosis?

If you’re experiencing symptoms of endometriosis, see a GP and ask for a referral to a gynaecologist. Young women are frequently told that painful periods are normal, but the truth is that while mild discomfort is normal during a usual period, severe pain is not. Achieving an official diagnosis may require keyhole surgery called a laparoscopy.

Endometriosis and pregnancy risks: What happens if I don’t get treatment?

The damage caused by endometriosis depends on the location and severity of the condition. Endometriosis has the potential to significantly alter the anatomy and functionality of the fallopian tubes and ovaries. In extreme cases, endometriosis can cause permanent damage to the reproductive system, so being proactive and getting an early diagnosis is important to minimise progression.

'Can I Still Have A Family If I Have Endometriosis?'

Endometriosis and pregnancy risks: Endometriosis can cause permanent damage to the reproductive system, making pregnancy difficult or impossible. | Photo: iStock

Tackling endometriosis and pregnancy risks: Will I still be able to fall pregnant?

Women diagnosed with endometriosis can often fall pregnant naturally, but it does differ from person to person depending on the severity of the condition. Approximately 50 percent of women who have been unable to conceive naturally are thought to have underlying endometriosis.

As the typical treatment used to help suppress the growth of endometrial tissue is contraceptive medication like the pill, exploring other options is necessary for women hoping to fall pregnant. As you can’t be on contraception when trying to conceive, a laparoscopy is often recommended to remove endometrial implants or scarring and assist the body’s natural reproductive functions. 

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) is another method commonly used to help women with endometriosis conceive. For example, IVF could be necessary if the fallopian tubes have been damaged, or if a pregnancy has not been achieved following surgery and removal of endometriosis. If the condition has affected your egg reserve, egg freezing may be also recommended.

Is it safe to carry my own child if I have endometriosis? 

Yes, most women with endometriosis can safely carry their own children, and once conception has occurred, a normal pregnancy is usually possible. Pregnancy, like contraceptive treatments affecting hormone levels, can even temporarily suppress the symptoms of endometriosis, so many women find that they don’t experience the same symptoms during pregnancy. However, there is no cure for the disease, so symptoms of endometriosis usually reappear after birth.

If you feel that you may be experiencing symptoms of endometriosis, which can be quite debilitating, I encourage you to visit your GP or gynaecologist to find out what is going to be best for you. To find out more about endometriosis and how it can affect your plans to conceive, please visit City Fertility.

'Can I Still Have A Family If I Have Endometriosis?'

Most women with endometriosis can carry their own children. | Photo: iStock

Women who suffer from Endometriosis in Singapore: Where to seek help from 
 
This painful condition affects a notable percentage of women in Singapore, with an estimate to be as high from 10 to 15%, according to SingHealth. 
 
However, by taking active steps to educate yourself on the symptoms to look out for, and scheduling regular gynae health check-ups, you can help yourself detect endometriosis early. Doing so increases your chances in treating it.
 
Aside from seeking medical help from your local hospitals such as KK Endometriosis Centre, there are also support groups out there to help women with endometriosis cope such as the Endometriosis Association Official Site and Singapore Endometriosis Support Group.

This article was first published in Kidspot and was republished on theAsianparent with permission. 

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