Endometriosis is a common, but regularly misunderstood condition which affects 10-15% of women during their childbearing years. It is characterized by the presence of endometrial tissue outside of the uterus — this can be on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or other areas in the pelvic region. This can result in painful periods, lower back pain, discomfort during urination/bowel movements, pain during/after intercourse, lengthy menstrual cycles, bloating, constipation and more. Endometriosis often contributes to fertility challenges, and even infertility.
What are the causes?
The causes aren’t entirely known, however one theory is that the bloodstream carries endometrial cells back through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic area, instead of being discarded out of the body.
Other factors, ranging from hormonal imbalances and inflammation to immune dysfunction, toxins in the environment, and chronic stress, can contribute to a diagnosis of endometriosis. There is also a strong hereditary component, so if your mother, sister or distant cousin experienced similar symptoms, you may want to get further testing.
How is it diagnosed?
Many women think that their monthly period and its associated symptoms — however debilitating they may be — come with the territory. In fact, research shows that it often takes 7 years from the time a woman first experiences symptoms to receive a confirmed diagnosis of endometriosis.
A diagnosis is often based on clinical findings during a pelvic exam, symptoms and medical history. Your doctor may order a pelvic ultrasound to rule out other causes, while a more invasive laparoscopy procedure may be later considered.
Common Questions About Endometriosis
Below you will find the answers to commonly asked questions about endometriosis.
Can endometriosis be cured?
- While there is no cure for endometriosis, there are many things you can actively do to manage and reduce your symptoms, while improving your fertility odds.
Does endometriosis cause infertility (or vice versa)?
Endometriosis is one of the causes of infertility in a patient, but it often depends on the stage/grade and type of endometriosis, which takes into consideration the location, depth, size, and amount of tissue. Stage 1 is minimal, while stage 4 is severe. Someone suffering from stage 4 will be more likely to struggle with infertility. At the same time, the location of the endometrial tissue matters. — for example, lesions on the ovaries can impact egg quality, and lesions in the uterus can affect implantation.
Does endometriosis impact ovulation?
Endometriosis can affect ovulation, but depends on where the lesion(s) exists in the body. For example, if it is in the ovary or fallopian tubes (causing a tubal blockage) it can impact ovulation.
Are different protocols needed during fertility treatment?
From a naturopathic perspective, we would focus extra attention on estrogen levels and estrogen clearance from the body, reducing inflammation and immune balance. From an IVF perspective, the medical team may decide to suppress the endometriosis (minimize and shrink lesions) before proceeding with fertility treatment. As each situation is unique, it is best to consult your naturopathic and medical teams.
Can acupuncture help with symptoms?
Yes! Acupuncture has been shown in research to relieve menstrual pain due to endometriosis, reduce the size of pelvic masses, and reduce CA125 levels (a biomarker of various types of cancer, endometriosis and menstrual disorders). For best results, acupuncture is combined with botanical herbs, nutraceuticals and nutrition in a comprehensive program that looks at all facets of endometriosis.
What natural treatments help endometriosis?
The Conceive Health naturopathic team will customize a preconception plan that is unique to your stage of endometriosis to better prepare your body for fertility treatment. Your personal plan may consist of a diet, nutrition and supplement protocol that focuses on supporting detoxification pathways, promoting estrogen clearance and reducing inflammation levels. Acupuncture and specific botanicals may be added to reduce overall pain levels. Contact us today to discuss your specific case and learn how we can help.
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