Endometrium is the tissue that normally lines a woman’s uterus. In endometriosis, this tissue grows in other places as well, like behind the uterus, on the fallopian tubes and ovaries, or just randomly within the pelvic cavity. All this overgrowth of tissue can cause fertility issues for women who want to conceive.
Regardless of where the endometrial tissue is located in the body, it continues to act as if it were part of the uterus. Each month it thickens, breaks down and bleeds. Trapped blood in your body cavity can irritate other tissues and cause inflammation, cysts, tumors, or adhesions, scar tissue that can stick to internal organs. This can make for very heavy and painful menstrual periods. Depending on the degree of extra tissue growth, a woman with endometriosis may also experience sharp pain during ovulation, during sex, or even during bowel movements and may have random bouts of diarrhea or constipation.
Unfortunately, we don’t yet know what causes endometriosis or how to stop it. While up to half of all women with endometriosis experience some fertility issues, most women with a mild to moderate case eventually are able to conceive. If you think you may have endometriosis, make an appointment with your health care provider. She can check for cysts and possible adhesions using ultrasound or MRI. Sometimes a minor surgical procedure called laparoscopy (a scope is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen) is needed to view the extent of tissue growth within the abdomen.
There is no cure, but endometriosis can be treated with pain meds and with different hormone therapies, including contraceptives, to slow the growth of tissue. If a woman is trying to conceive, however, this approach often is not helpful. Many women with endometriosis undergo surgery, often performed with laparoscopy, to remove growths and scar tissue. This procedure can significantly improve the chances for conception.