Endometriosis is an inflammatory condition, which affects approximately 10% of women. It can cause significant pain, irregular menstrual cycles, bowel and bladder dysfunction and may lead to fertility problems and mood disorders.
Some women who have endometriosis experience no pelvic pain while others experience mild to severe pain. Intriguingly, the severity of your pain does not correlate to the severity of the condition.
Symptoms of endometriosis include:
Irregular menstrual cycles
Uterine pain, sometimes severe, before and during menstruation
Pelvic and lower back pain
Pain and spotting during intercourse
Bleeding or spotting mid cycle
Large blood clots during menstruation
Period pain throughout the month
Nausea and vomiting during menstruation
IBS including diarrhea, constipation and bloating
Urinary tract infections, especially just before menstruation
Headaches, dizziness and fatigue
Mood fluctuations, anxiety and depression
In this condition cells, like those that line the uterus, known as endometrial tissue, grow in parts of the body that they should not. They can be found in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bowel, bladder and pelvic floor.
This displaced tissue responds to cyclic hormonal changes. However the displaced tissues cannot be shed like the endometrial tissue in the uterus that is shed each month resulting in a menstrual bleed. The tissue grows and is absorbed into the surrounding organs. This results in inflammation, pain and damage to the affected organs. This damage then further contributes to symptoms and may impact fertility.
Conventional medical treatment usually involves surgery to remove the displaced endometrial tissue followed by hormonal suppression using the oral contraceptive pill, an IUD or a hysterectomy. The problem with hormone suppression is the negative side effects; furthermore in 50% of cases the tissue grows back within 5 years. This mode of treatment is also problematic if you are planning on starting a family.
There is currently a lot of research looking into the cause of endometriosis and this is the first step towards developing a cure and improving current treatment options.
Many women suffering endometriosis turn to natural remedies due to the holistic nature of treatment. As a naturopath there are many ways I can help and support my clients that suffer endometriosis, including:
Improving digestion and IBS symptoms
Improving bladder function and reducing the incidence of UTI
Improving mood and reducing anxiety
Endometriosis can impact fertility in a number of ways; endometrial tissue can damage and block the fallopian tubes; the delicate fimbrial ends of the fallopian tubes can be damaged preventing egg collection; inflammation can damage the egg, sperm and embryo; and inflammation and hormone dysregulation can impact ovulation and implantation of an embryo.
I work with my clients to reduce their endometriosis symptoms using diet and lifestyle changes. We then evaluate their fertility options once their symptoms are managed. While conception for women who have endometriosis may be a challenge, there are fertility treatments that can help and most women are able to conceive naturally or with the help of IVF.