Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive a child. However, in the case of endometriosis infertility is also noted when a woman is unable to carry a pregnancy full term, often ending in miscarriages. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine states that endometriosis is found in up to 50 percent of infertile women. That's right, almost half of the women who are unable to conceive have endometriosis. Although this is the case, it is still possible for women diagnosed with endometriosis to have a successful and healthy pregnancy.
How Does Endometriosis Lead to Infertility?
The causes of infertility are connected to the dysfunction of the immune system, and new mechanisms are still being discovered. Research has shown the following physical and physiological changes in women diagnosed with endometriosis (1):
Endometriotic implants produce inflammatory cytokines which creates a toxic environment for both the sperm and egg
Endometriosis physically alters the anatomy of the pelvis causing scarring and adhesions which can block the fallopian tubes
Endometriomas and adhesions can impair the release of the egg, causing the egg to become trapped in the ovary
There are an increased rate of apoptosis (programmed cell death) in follicular cells found in women with endometriosis
Excessive antibodies and local inflammation impair implantation within the uterus of women diagnosed with endometriosis
In addition to the above causes of infertility, women who experience painful intercourse and high levels of stress often have difficulty conceiving and carrying to term.
Many women who are diagnosed with endometriosis have the desire to become mothers. Although endometriosis can lead to infertility through the above mechanisms, all hope is not lost. Conventional medicine has a limited number of options available to help women carry to term. A comprehensive approach is ideal to increase the success of conceiving and maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
As with any medical condition, early diagnosis is the best way to help prevent complications, such as infertility. If you are experiencing endometriosis like symptoms seeking out medical care is crucial. In office, I run blood test and order imaging, such as a hysterosalpingogram, to assess fertility. Knowing the root cause of a failed pregnancy is important in formulating an individualized treatment plan. As you have read, there are different causes of infertility in women with endometriosis, so treatment may differ based on those results.
In some cases, endometriotic lesions can alter the normal anatomy of the uterus preventing successful conception. In conventional medicine, a laparoscopy or laparotomy, may be performed to remove the endometriotic implants and help restore normal pelvic anatomy. Unfortunately, surgery may not be able to completely correct abnormal anatomy and typically lesions return in 2-3 years post surgery.
*Note a laparoscopy is preferred over a laparotomy because it causes less tissue damage, and allows for quicker recovery (1).
A Natural Approach to Healing
Balance the Immune System and Decrease Inflammation
Immune and inflammatory disruption are major proponents in the cause of endometriosis. Therapies that promote a balanced immune system and decrease inflammation in the body include, detoxing from environmental toxins, and increasing anti-inflammatory foods in the diet.
Balance Hormones and Heal the Gut
Estrogen is a trigger for endometriosis and many women with endometriosis are estrogen dominant. The digestive tract is where excess estrogen is broken down so that it can be removed from the body. There are herbs and nutritional foods that I use to support hormone balance and detoxification of excess estrogen.
Decrease Pain and Lifestyle Changes
Acupuncture and pelvic massage are great therapies used for decreasing pain and breaking up adhesions within the pelvic area. Acupuncture is used frequently to help women suffering from infertility conceive. It can also be used in conjunction with IVF therapy, and throughout the pregnancy. Pelvic massages are beneficial and help release toxins and adhesions, while also increasing blood flow to the uterus and ovaries promoting fertility.
Contact me to schedule an appointment and learn more about a comprehensive natural approach for healing from endometriosis.