The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that endometriosis affects up to 10% of women and girls of reproductive age. In fact, many women live with endometriosis without knowing it and, therefore, cannot seek treatment that can help improve their quality of life.
Even more concerning is that endometriosis can also impact a woman's fertility, making it essential to identify the condition early and get treatment. In this blog post, we'll define endometriosis and discuss its signs and symptoms, its impacts on fertility, and various treatment options like birth control and managing the condition with vitamins.
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a disorder in which the tissue that makes up the lining of the uterus (endometrium) grows outside of the uterus. This misplaced tissue can attach itself to organs in the reproductive system and form lesions or cysts. The most common areas for endo growth are on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and other regions of the pelvic cavity.
During the reproductive cycle, hormones that cause the endometrium to break down and shed can also cause these growths — known as "endo-lesions" or "endo-cysts"— to become inflamed. This inflammation can lead to severe pain during periods, sex, and even everyday activities such as walking or exercising.
Signs and Symptoms of Endometriosis
While endometriosis signs and symptoms may vary from woman to woman, there are a few common signs that you should look out for. According to Mayo Clinic, the primary symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain that:
- Begins before your period starts
- Gets worse over time
- Lasts longer than your period or other menstrual cramps
- Gets worse with physical activity, such as during sex or when you use the bathroom.
Other common signs and symptoms include:
- Excessive bleeding - You may experience heavy periods or spotting between your periods.
- Pain with bowel movements or urination - This pain can range from mild to severe.
- Infertility - Endometriosis can lead to complications with fertility, so if you're having difficulty getting pregnant, it might be a sign of endo.
- Experience fatigue, bloating or nausea, diarrhea, and constipation, especially during your periods.
How Your Menstrual Cycle Might Look with Endometriosis
Women with endo might experience more painful and irregular periods. While every woman is different, the menstrual cycle of someone with endometriosis may look like this:
- Your period will start as usual, but it can include severe cramping for a few days, making it hard to function normally.
- You might experience spotting or bleeding at random times during the month.
- Pain and cramps will start to come back a few days before your next period, making it hard to engage in activities you enjoy.
- You may need more than one type of pain relief to ease your symptoms.
What Causes Endometriosis to Develop?
While the exact cause of endometriosis is unclear, some potential risk factors could contribute to its development. These include:
- Genetics - Women with a family history of endo, especially mothers or sisters, are more likely to develop it. If your parent or any other immediate family member has a history of endo diagnosed, it is important to pay attention to any changes in your menstrual cycle.
- Hormonal Changes - Fluctuations in hormones like estrogen can increase your risk of developing endometriosis. This is because endometriosis responds to hormonal signals. Estrogen is known to stimulate the thickening of the uterine lining and other endometrial tissue during the menstrual cycle, leading to endo growth.
- Immune System Disorders - Lack of immunity can make it harder for the body to fight off endometrial growth.
- Uterine Abnormalities - Retrograde menstrual flow, which is when menstrual blood flows back into your pelvic cavity instead of out through the vagina, can cause shed uterine lining to spread to other areas of the pelvis, leading to the development of endo.
How to Treat Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a chronic condition, meaning it can't be cured. But treatments are available to help manage its symptoms and reduce the severity of pain. Changing your diet, exercising regularly, and taking medications are some of the most common treatments. Additionally, certain vitamins and supplements can help reduce symptoms of endo.
1. Birth Control
Hormonal birth control, such as pills, hormonal IUDs, and patches, are mainly used for pregnancy prevention, but they can help ease endo symptoms by regulating your hormones. Whether you are dealing with heavy bleeding, severe cramps, or pelvic pain, birth control can temporarily help manage your symptoms.
So, how does birth control work for endo? Birth control works by reducing estrogen or adding progesterone that offsets high estrogen levels in the body, which helps with alleviating endometriosis symptoms. With lower estrogen levels, the endometrial tissue will not thicken as much leading to lighter periods, cramps, and less pain.
2. Endometriosis Surgery
Sometimes, endo symptoms can be manageable with medications, but endometriosis surgery might be an option if they become more severe and other treatments are not working. Endo surgeries involve removing or using laser energy to destroy the tissue.
Depending on the severity of your case, different types of surgeries may be used, like Laparoscopy. It involves using a camera to locate and remove endometrial tissue. It's an outpatient procedure that usually only requires small incisions. While it can relieve the symptoms of endometriosis, it does not guarantee a cure and the tissue may grow back.
Meanwhile, when in severe cases, a hysterectomy might be the only option. This involves completely removing the uterus and can permanently relieve endometriosis symptoms. However, it is a major procedure with long-term implications, such as infertility, so it should not be considered lightly.
3. Pain Medication
Pain relievers are often used to reduce the pain associated with endometriosis. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen can reduce cramping, while opioids such as codeine or morphine may be prescribed in more severe cases. However, because of the risk of developing an opioid use disorder, opioids should be used cautiously.
4. Vitamins and Supplements
While vitamins and supplements can't cure endometriosis, they may help reduce symptoms. Studies by National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) show that administering antioxidants like vitamins D & E to women with endometriosis can lessen the severity of pain and decrease peritoneal fluid inflammatory cytokines.
Additionally, the Endometriosis Association found that nutrition and supplements can help improve the digestive system, immune system, and reproductive system functioning.
At Binto, we offer tailored kits to help manage endometriosis symptoms. Our team of fertility providers formulates each product to optimize fertility outcomes and help you achieve your desired pregnancy outcome.
We have products like the Bloom Prenatal Kit, which supports fetal growth and development, reduce morning sickness, and relieve constipation. You can also add a daily supplement of our Balance Inositol product, which offers amazing benefits like hormonal balancing.
Our Bloom Prenatal Plus vitamin gives your body the core nutrients needed to support the conceiving and growing baby once pregnant. We also recommend taking Glow Down, a magnesium powder that helps relax muscles and restore the body's magnesium levels back to normal. It can also help you get better sleep, reduce anxiety and stress, and improve your overall well-being.
Impact of Endometriosis on Fertility
According to NCBI, endometriosis can be grouped into three types: superficial peritoneal, ovarian endometriosis, and deep infiltrating. These are defined by where the endometrial tissue is located. Some women may develop one or multiple of these endometriosis types, where the medical practitioner then categorizes them into four stages based on the amount of damage and obstruction of organs.
The degree of each type and stage can tremendously impact fertility. There may be no effect on fertility in mild cases, while severe cases can significantly reduce the odds of conceiving naturally.
Superficial Peritoneal Endometriosis
It is a thin layer of endometriosis that forms on the surface of the peritoneum, which is a thin membrane lining your abdominal cavity. A liquid peritoneal fluid may form lubricating sacs of endometrial tissue that can attach to organs, like the bladder and uterus, causing pain during intercourse or urination. Medical practitioners group this into stages I or II endometriosis. It is not as severe but can make conceiving difficult for some.
This type of endometriosis is when there are multiple cysts in the ovaries. It is an advanced stage, usually classified as stages III or IV, and can be very difficult to manage without proper medical intervention. The shape and size of the cysts can impact fertility because they may not release eggs like they usually should.
Deep Infiltrating Endometriosis
It is characterized by large endometrial lesions deeply embedded in the tissue, forming large nodules and cysts. This type of endometriosis can affect organs such as the rectum, bladder, intestines, and ovaries. It is usually grouped into stages III or IV because it can be more severe, causing adhesions and obstructing the fallopian tubes. This type of endometriosis can drastically reduce the odds of fertility.
Although endometriosis can be challenging to manage, it is crucial to understand and recognize the warning signs. Many treatments can help reduce the symptoms of endometriosis so that you can have a better quality of life. Proper medical intervention and lifestyle changes can improve fertility outcomes significantly.At Binto, we offer tailored kits to help manage endometriosis symptoms. Our personalized quiz will guide you in deciding on the vitamin and supplement formulations that are most suitable for your body type and lifestyle. If you have further questions, don't hesitate to book a telehealth consult with a Binto provider. We want everyone to have the best chance of achieving pregnancy outcomes. Start taking control today with Binto!