For many years, I struggled to get pregnant. My husband and I tried everything on the spectrum of infertility treatment: from fertility boosting drugs, naturopathy and acupuncture, to IUI and three rounds of (unsuccessful) IVF.
Nothing worked and I was diagnosed with “unexplained infertility”.
On the verge of giving up, we had one last visit to our doctor. She suggested that I do a laparoscopy to check for endometriosis. During the surgery it was discovered I did indeed have this condition (on my ovaries, therefore affecting my fertility) and the growths were removed. Of course, the question on my mind now was “can I get pregnant after endometriosis surgery?”
The very next month, I saw those two blue lines. Perhaps you too have the same question: can I get pregnant after endometriosis surgery? Let’s take an in-depth look at the condition, treatment and what happens after endometriosis treatment.
What is endometriosis?
The lining of your uterus is made up of a tissue called the endometrium. It is this that sheds along with bleeding when you have your period.
When a woman has endometriosis, this tissue grows in places where it should not: the ovaries, pelvis or even the intestines.
Medically defined, endometriosis is “a progressive, chronic condition where cells similar to those that line the uterus (the endometrium) are found in other parts of the body.”
When endometrial tissue grows in places in your body it shouldn’t, it still degenerates and bleeds, just like in your uterus. However, the difference is that when this tissue is not in your uterus and breaks down, it doesn’t have a place to go.
What happens then is that this accumulated tissue and blood turns into cysts, adhesion, and scars. It can even cause organs to bind together.
In women not trying to get pregnant, one effective way of treatment is to stop ovulation. However, as you can image, for those trying to conceive, endometriosis can affect their fertility, especially if it is present on their ovaries or fallopian tubes.
Common symptoms of endometriosis
The most common symptom is pain (especially around the pelvis) and strong cramping. Another symptom is infertility. To read about less common symptoms, click here.
How endometriosis affects fertility
If endometriosis is present on one or both ovaries, the quality of your eggs could get affected, preventing pregnancy. When on the fallopian tube lining, it can stop the egg from making its way to the uterus where it will be fertilized.
Medical experts suggest that endometriosis could also damage a man’s sperm once released in the woman’s body. While the exact reason is not known, the theory is that endometriosis causes inflammation in the body, and this could affect the sperm, and even the eggs.
Unfortunately, endometriosis cannot be cured. But it can be managed. Usually, doctors will try out non-invasive procedures before they conduct surgery.
Non-invasive treatment for endometriosis
- Pain medication: As mentioned before, one of the most obvious signs of endometriosis is pain before and during your period. Doctors may recommend common over-the-counter pain relief for this, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
- Hormone therapy: During your menstrual cycle, you experience a surge and ebb in various hormones. This causes endometrial tissue (outside of your uterus) to thicken, break down and bleed. Hormone medication can help slow down this thickening/ breaking down process, thus reducing pain. Common hormone treatments are: contraceptives; gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) agonists and antagonists; progestin therapy; and aromatase inhibitors.
However, if you are trying to get pregnant, then the treatment option is usually surgery.
A laparoscopy is usually the surgery of choice to treat endometriosis.
Surgery for endometriosis
Endometriosis surgery involves removing the endometrial growths, while protecting your ovaries and uterus. It is commonly done via a laparoscopy, or keyhole surgery.
A laparoscopy involves one to three tiny incisions near and around your navel. Through one of these small cuts, the surgeon inserts a laparoscope, through which she or he can view inside. More instruments will be inserted in the other cuts to scrape out the growths.
“Can I get pregnant after endometriosis surgery?”
There’s no clear-cut answer to this, but usually the answer is “yes”. In my case, I did. This is because the endometrial growths were on my ovaries, affecting the quality of my eggs. The moment the growths were removed, my egg quality improved and I became pregnant the very next month after my laparoscopic surgery.
Studies have also shown that following surgery for endometriosis, a woman’s chances of getting pregnant improve. Generally, you can start trying for a baby around two weeks after the surgery (of course, do get your doctor’s clearance on this).
What if the surgery doesn’t work?
If, unfortunately, the answer to the question “can I get pregnant after endometriosis surgery?” is “no”, don’t worry – you still have good options.
- Egg freezing: If surgery is not an option or doesn’t work, then doctors may suggest you freeze your eggs.
- Intrauterine Insemination (IUI): This method can be successful if the endometriosis has not affected your fallopian tubes and your partner has great sperm.
- In vitro fertilization (IVF): This involves fertilizing an egg outside of the body, and then placing it back in the uterus.
- Fertility medication: Drugs such as Clomiphene help a woman produce two to three mature eggs, increasing the chances of conception.
References: Mayo Clinic, HealthLine
Also read: The reality of living with endometriosis
Republished with permission from theAsianParent Singapore