What Lies Ahead
Research on the diagnosis, causes, and treatment of endometriosis is ongoing. Some scientists are looking into less invasive ways to screen for the disease. One recently-published study examined the effect of simply flushing the fallopian tubes with an oil-soluble medical chemical, and found that it helped women with endometriosis who have normal fallopian tubes to get pregnant. Other researchers are looking into the use of endostatin—a protein that has shown promise in literally “starving” cancer cells by depriving them of the blood flow they need to survive—to cut off the support for endometrial tissue; while these researchers have only tested endostatin in mice, their reports suggest it might be a hope for the future. “There are many researchers looking at immunology in endometriosis, but right now there are no new treatments,” says Dr. King.
Fortunately, though, a diagnosis of endometriosis does not have to mean the end of your plans to get pregnant and have a family. “My advice to women who have endometriosis and are trying to conceive a child is to identify if you are at risk by evaluating your own symptoms and looking at your family history,” says Dr. Sung. “Then consult your physician for a preliminary evaluation.” The results should determine your plan for getting pregnant.
That fertility plan will depend on many individual factors, including your age, and the stage and severity of your endometriosis. But for many of the women following their personalized plan for conceiving, the end result will be the same—a safe, healthy pregnancy.
Signs and Symptoms
Often, endometriosis can be completely “silent.” The most common symptom, though, is pain, especially during the menstrual cycle and usually in the pelvic area. The pain may be mild or severe, and it can occur in unexpected areas depending on which organs are involved.
Symptoms may include:
• Heavy, painful periods
• Pain during or after intercourse
• Painful bowel movements or diarrhea
• Pain in the legs
• Severe cramping (either with menstruation or otherwise)
• Tenderness or discomfort in the abdominal area
• Presence of blood in urine
• Fatigue or sleeplessness (often due to pain)
A version of this story originally appeared in the Spring 2006 issue of Conceive Magazine.
Related Topics: Endometriosis and Fertility; Fertility Health; Fertility Threats; Infertility and PCOS