By Katherine Melzer-Ross, M.D., GENESIS Fertility and Reproductive Medicine
If painful menstrual periods interfere with your normal daily activities, it might be worth checking in with your obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN). Having some pain due to cramps during your period is normal and not considered worrisome. However, if you have severe pain that keeps you from work or responsibilities, it might be a sign of endometriosis. March is Endometriosis Awareness Month and the perfect time to think twice about those painful periods.
Endometriosis is a condition that affects women during their reproductive years. It’s thought to be caused by menstruation occurring in a backwards fashion. Some of the tissue that normally lines the uterus flows backwards through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvis instead of coming down normally through the cervix. This can cause inflammation, irritation, and scarring on the outside of the uterus, the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, and even the surrounding organs, such as the bladder or intestines. The classic symptom is pelvic pain, often worse around the time of menstruation or with sexual activity. Some women are not aware of a possible endometriosis diagnosis because they’ve always attributed the pain to their monthly periods.
There are several reasons why it’s important to recognize endometriosis. First, women with endometriosis do not have to keep suffering; there are surgical treatments, medicine, and lifestyle changes that can help reduce the pain.
The second reason to diagnosis endometriosis is because it can lead to difficulty getting pregnant. It’s estimated that up to one half of women with endometriosis will have some issues with conception. In fact, women with infertility are six to eight times more likely to have endometriosis than fertile women. Endometriosis may decrease fertility by several means: distort normal anatomy, interfere with normal egg/sperm transport, decrease egg quality, alter the immune system, and affect the hormonal environment. Early recognition may improve your chances of getting pregnant in the future.
Endometriosis is not always easy to diagnose and treat. In some cases, in can be seen on an ultrasound or MRI. In other cases, laparoscopy, an outpatient surgery, may be used to confirm the diagnosis and to potentially treat the pelvic pain.
If your OB/GYN is unsure about the diagnosis, he or she may refer you to a fertility specialist for further consultation. You may also be referred after a diagnosis is made, so more advanced fertility treatments can be discussed. Treatment can be individualized based on your symptoms, age, and desire for pregnancy.
If you think you may have endometriosis, don’t let another painful month go by. Take action and see your doctor.
For more information, call 718-283-8600, or visit GenesisFertility.com