Many women are unaware of their fertility challenges until they try to conceive. If that is you, just know that you are more than your diagnosis. Your fertility challenges may be mere roadblocks in your pathway to pregnancy – and it is important to know that you are not alone.
Endometriosis is a common fertility challenge that impacts a significant portion of infertile women. Understanding your diagnosis, its severity, whether it appears to have caused extensive scarring, whether it has affected your ovarian reserve will help you and your medical team plan the most appropriate course of treatment to improve your ability to conceive.
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis, is a medical condition that affects about 6-10% of the general female population between the ages of 25-40. While the specific cause of endometriosis remains unknown, many experts agree that genetics, immunological, and hormonal responses are some of the main contributing factors to this fertility challenge.
Endometriosis develops in the body when the uterine lining, also known as the endometrium begins to grow outside of the uterus. Normally, the uterine lining grows and sheds during each menstrual cycle. However, once the tissue begins to grow outside the uterus, blood begins to pool and becomes trapped anywhere in the body but most prominently within the pelvic cavity. As a result, this can affect the reproductive organs and bowels. Endometriomas can also develop which are endometrial tissue that form cysts within the ovaries and can vary in size
According to recent studies, approximately 20-25% of women with endometriosis experience no symptoms. Yet the other 75-80% have reported various symptoms including persistent pain, painful periods, backaches, premenstrual spotting, severe menstrual pain, swelling, and difficulty becoming pregnant. Although, diagnosing endometriosis can be tricky – symptoms can mimic various illnesses. Thus, the only definitive way to diagnose endometriosis is through a surgical procedure called laparoscopic surgery.
Laparoscopic surgery is an invasive procedure that involves small incisions at the belly button and one along each hip bone. A narrow telescope-like camera is put through to determine endometrial tissue growth in the pelvic cavity. If found, doctors typically remove tissue adhesions and endometriomas found which may interfere with conception.
How Can Endometriosis Affect Fertility?
Despite extensive research, no specific conclusion has been made to explain the relationship between endometriosis and infertility. Although, studies have found that women experiencing fertility challenges are 6 to 8 times more likely to have endometriosis than fertile women and 30% to 50% of women with endometriosis are infertile.
Depending on the extensiveness and severity of endometriosis, it has the ability to distort a woman’s pelvic anatomy, cause adhesions, and hinder her ability to conceive. It can also cause blockage along the fallopian tubes and even damage the ovaries. Instead of a free flowing ocean of reproductive organs, think of the organs getting stuck and matted down which can impede its normal function.
TCM and Endometriosis
As a practitioner and advocate of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the integration of TCM can work hand in hand to provide the best form of treatment for endometriosis. Over the years, I have witnessed countless women and couples conceive despite this medical condition. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine has been shown to be beneficial and effective for managing, treating, and alleviating symptoms of “delayed ovulation, excessive or scanty menstrual flow, dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), premenstrual symptoms, and short or long menstrual cycles as diagnostic signs”, all of which can be indicators of endometriosis and a means through which intervention can enhance reproductive health. Studies have shown that complementary and alternative medical treatment such as acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine has become popular due to the number of successful outcomes.
Acupuncture combined with Chinese herbal medicine will help restore blood flow and reduce symptoms associated to endometriosis. Acupuncture will help your body find the balance it needs to support your reproductive organs physically and increase serotonin and endorphin levels to help support you emotionally and decrease your stress response. Chinese herbal remedies can be tailored to your individual needs and TCM diagnosis. The exact formula will vary case by case. If you are considering utilizing TCM during your pathway to pregnancy, consult a qualified TCM practitioner specializing in gynecological health to determine the best treatment for you.
Take charge of your pathway to pregnancy and get tested early. Work with your healthcare provider and a TCM practitioner to determine the best journey for you that will leave you feeling empowered, calm, and at peace. There is no simple cure for endometriosis. Each and every individual is unique. Treatment plans must be tailored specifically to meet patient’s needs. Be open to different holistic approaches that focus on maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle. You may just find the perfect pathway for you.