March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. Did you know that 5-10% of women have a form of endometriosis? This condition causes endometrial tissue, which normally is only supposed to grow on the inside lining of the uterus, to be displaced outside of the uterus. This tissue can also be found on the ovaries, and sometimes other areas of the abdominal cavity. The tissues continue to act as it normally would — it thickens, breaks down, and bleeds with each menstrual cycle.
When the endometrial lining sheds, it has no way to exit the body. Essentially, it becomes trapped, causing severe pain and abdominal bloating. When endometriosis involves the ovaries, cysts called endometriomas may form. This causes surrounding tissue to become damaged, eventually developing scar tissue and adhesions. This can cause infertility—30-40% of all infertile women have endometriosis.
So what are your options if you suffer from endometriosis and want to start a family? According to endometriosis.org, there are two main options: IUI and IVF.
Intra-uterine insemination (or IUI) involves artificially injecting sperm into a woman’s uterus. Sometimes, IUIs involve controlled ovarian hyper-stimulation, which is a hormonal treatment that stimulates ovaries to produce more eggs. IUIs are generally used for women who have minimum to mild endometriosis.
In-vitro Fertilization (IVF) involves harvesting human eggs and fertilizing them with sperm outside of the body. Then, the embryos are implanted back into the uterus with the hope that pregnancy will be achieved. This fertility treatment requires rigorous hormonal medication to make the ovaries produce more eggs than they normally would. This treatment is often used for women with moderate to severe endometriosis, whose fallopian tubes are not functioning properly due to damage and scar tissue.
There is another option for family building for those who have endometriosis: Embryo adoption. Through embryo adoption, couples who have remaining embryos from their previously successful IVF cycle can gift those embryos to a couple who is struggling to conceive. This allows women to skip the hormonal treatments they would have had to undergo with IUIs or IVF cycles, and still have the ability to give birth to their child.
To learn more about the process to adopt embryos, visit EmbryoAdoption.org.