Medical contribution by Shayne Plosker, M.D.
Shayne M. Plosker, M.D., is the Medical Director of SGF Tampa Bay and sees patients at the Brandon, Florida office. Dr. Plosker is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive endocrinology and infertility. He has received multiple scientific and teaching awards as well as awards for exemplary patient care.
If you have been diagnosed with moderate to severe endometriosis, you can opt to freeze your eggs to preserve your future fertility options. Endometriosis affects approximately 48 percent of women experiencing infertility. It’s important to consider that surgically treating endometriosis can possibly affect your ovarian reserve in a negative way.
However, you do not need to make the tough choice between enduring pain, or potentially damaging your fertility with surgery. Egg freezing prior to treating endometriosis can be the game-changer you’re looking for.
How endometriosis affects your ovarian reserve
The reason why so many women with endometriosis experience a decrease in fertility isn’t entirely known. When endometriosis tissue in the pelvis bleeds, there is no outlet for the blood, causing inflammation and scarring. Sometimes, endometriosis on the ovaries leads to so much inflammation that ovarian cysts called endometriomas are formed.
Inflammation, and altered hormone levels, seem to create a hostile environment where it is harder for a sperm to fertilize an egg, and more difficult for a fertilized egg to implant in the uterus. Sometimes the scar tissue distorts the Fallopian tubes that transport the eggs from the ovaries.
When endometriomas are present, the number of eggs in the ovaries decreases.
Benefits of egg freezing before endometriosis treatment
Endometriosis surgery is usually carried out by laparoscopy. Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive outpatient surgical procedure in which your doctor uses a narrow fiber-optic telescope inserted through an incision in your navel to look for — and sometimes remove — scar tissue or endometriosis implants.
Treating your endometriosis with laparoscopic surgery can:
- Help reduce pelvic pain caused by the endometriosis
- Improve the chances of naturally occurring pregnancy
On the other hand, any surgery on the ovaries can lead to the destruction of healthy tissue containing eggs, loss of eggs, or even a loss of an entire ovary. Egg freezing before endometriosis surgery allows women with endometriosis to preserve the existing quantity and quality of their eggs and fertility now.
Egg freezing is carried out by vitrification, which is a rapid freezing process. When you’re ready to grow your family, rest assured that egg survival and egg fertilization after warming tends to be very good. Pregnancy rates depend on the age of the eggs at the time they were frozen, and on the number of eggs frozen. Pregnancy rates are best in women ages 37 or younger when the eggs were frozen, but egg freezing is a consideration at any age before endometriosis surgery.
Since endometriosis can take many forms, and the success rates of treatments vary, your doctor will outline your best treatment options with an individual plan for you.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness as of February 2022.