Medical Contribution by Shayne Plosker, M.D.

How does endometriosis affect fertility?

Endometriosis, which affects approximately 48 percent of infertile women, is a painful condition where the tissue lining the inside of the uterus implants internally on the ovaries, bladder, and other surfaces in a woman’s pelvis. The tissue responds to your menstrual cycle hormones by swelling, thickening, and shedding to mark the beginning of the next cycle. Women with endometriosis will still experience a period every month as the lining inside the uterus bleeds and sheds. Unfortunately 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.

The reason why so many women with endometriosis experience a decrease in fertility isn’t entirely known. 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 are decreased.

How can you preserve your fertility with endometriosis?

While surgery for endometriosis is beneficial and sometimes necessary, it could have a negative impact on your fertility. endometriosis surgery is often challenging, and any endometriosis surgery on the ovaries can lead to a loss of eggs, or even a loss of an entire ovary. If you have been diagnosed with endometriosis, egg freezing is an option to preserve your future fertility before surgery for endometriosis.

Previously, women with endometriosis had limited options—have surgery and potentially damage their fertility, or experience pain. Now, women with endometriosis don’t necessarily have to choose between treatment to relieve pain and their future fertility. Egg freezing for women with endometriosis may be a game-changer.

Why consider egg freezing before endometriosis treatment?

While laparoscopic surgery can help reduce the pain, excessive bleeding, and chronic menstrual cramps associated with endometriosis, it can also negatively affect your ovarian reserve. In fact, Shady Grove Fertility suggests that women with symptoms of endometriosis consider egg freezing and speak with a fertility specialist prior to initiating surgery. If you have been diagnosed with moderate to severe endometriosis and are waiting to conceive, you can opt to freeze your eggs now to preserve your fertility options in the future.

Overcoming Future Infertility through Egg Freezing

Egg freezing allows women with endometriosis to preserve the existing quantity and quality of their eggs and fertility now. Vitrification, or flash-freezing, is a very efficient and effective method of freezing your eggs that demonstrates strong survival, fertilization, and embryonic development rates after your frozen eggs have been thawed so that family building remains an option for your future.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness as of December 2020.

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