March 31 is Endometriosis Awareness Day, the culmination of Endometriosis Awareness Month.
It began as just a single week, created by the Endometriosis Association, to bring attention to a common condition which just decades ago was considered insignificant. Painful symptoms could be written off as typical menstrual cramps and the condition may go undiagnosed and untreated until there is permanent damage to the body.
Endometriosis, which affects 10-20 percent of women of childbearing age, is a disorder that affects the reproductive organs. Over the course of the menstrual cycle, tissue typically grows within the uterus to prepare for the implantation of an embryo at the beginning of pregnancy. With endometriosis, that tissue can be found growing in other places outside the uterus, such as around the fallopian tubes and ovaries. When this tissue sheds during menstruation, it cannot leave the body. This can lead to cysts and scar tissue that grow on and around the ovaries. If left untreated, it can permanently affect a woman’s chances at becoming pregnant. If the fallopian tubes are damaged or bound together with scar tissue, they can no longer deliver the egg to the uterus properly. Though the risk remains low, women with endometriosis also have a higher chance of developing ovarian cancer.
In the past, the causes and cures were not well understood. In 1953, Dr. Joe Meigs published an article presenting the solution of “early marriage and frequent childbearing” as a preventative measure. Today, we understand that early menarche, late menopause, and never giving birth are all risk factors. Endometriosis is treatable if it can be accurately diagnosed and hormone therapy is available, along with laparoscopic surgeries in severe cases. And for those whose fertility is already hampered by endometriosis, fertility treatments can assist with pregnancy.
There is currently no cure for endometriosis. That is why organizations like the Endometriosis Association and the Endometriosis Foundation of America advocate for women with this condition. Recognition, surgical training, and research funding are just a few of their goals toward creating a better future for women everywhere. Events and fundraisers, like Worldwide EndoMarch, take place across the world the entire month of March.
Many families have found that if they are facing infertility due to endometriosis, embryo adoption is still a viable option to build their family! To learn more about embryo donation and adoption, visit EmbryoAdoption.org.