Endometriosis and Infertility: How This Connection Affects Pregnancy
By Christopher D. Cook, DO
Mar 12, 2018
Updated Nov 17, 2023
5 min read
Your doctor says you have endometriosis. Along with painful periods, now you’re worrying about being able to get pregnant in the future.
Endometriosis is a condition that affects women during their menstruation and childbearing years. If you have endometriosis it means the tissue that grows inside of your uterus is also growing outside of your uterus on your ovaries, fallopian tubes, intestines, the outer wall of the uterus, or other organs in your belly.
What does endometriosis mean for you and your health?
Although endometriosis doesn’t always cause symptoms, you may experience the following:
Other conditions that cause pelvic pain have similar symptoms as endometriosis. Some of these conditions include pelvic inflammatory disease, ovarian cysts, or irritable bowel syndrome.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of endometriosis. That being said, it’s suspected that estrogen will make your endometriosis worse. Your estrogen levels are high during childbearing years, but drop when your menstrual periods stop during menopause. After menopause your symptoms should improve dramatically.
For most women, endometriosis develops several years after you start menstruating. Most women see relief from endometriosis during pregnancy, and it’ll go away permanently after menopause. Not sure if you’ll develop endometriosis? The following factors can put you at risk:
Whether your endometriosis is mild or severe, there are things you can do at home to ease your symptoms. These include:
When you have endometriosis, your doctor will usually recommend medications and/or surgery. Each case of endometriosis is different, and your treatment goals may vary (for example, you may want to get pregnant or reduce your pain).
Your doctor will work with you to create an individualized treatment plan. In most cases, your doctor will start with conservative treatments before recommending surgery. Medical treatments for endometriosis may include:
Can you still get pregnant if you have endometriosis? Yes, but it can be more difficult. Among women with infertility, half have endometriosis. Endometriosis can block or change the shape of your pelvis and reproductive organs and make it difficult to get pregnant. Endometriosis can also impact your endometrium, which is the layer of your uterus where fertilization happens, and make it difficult for fertilization to occur. Finally, when you have endometriosis, your body’s immune system may attack your developing embryo.
As discouraging as it is to think about how endometriosis is affecting your fertility, about 70 percent of women with mild or moderate endometriosis do end up getting pregnant within three years without treatment. Endometriosis just makes it more difficult to get pregnant.
If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for more than 12 months, talk to your doctor. She or he can recommend surgery to remove endometrial growths (as necessary), and treatments to help you get pregnant. You should also contact your doctor if you: