March is National Endometriosis Awareness Month, so it's time to increase your knowledge about a disease that can cause debilitating pain and is estimated to affect 6.3 million women in the United States.
"When the Endometriosis Association was founded in 1980, endometriosis was commonly thought of as a disease of the single, white career woman," says Carol Drury, Education Program Coordinator and Associate Director. "That is certainly not the case! We estimate that more than 89 million girls and women around the world — of all races, single and married, working inside or outside of the home — are currently affected by endo. Endo has been diagnosed in girls as young as 8 — prior to their first menses — and can also be found in women who are post-menopausal."
How does one take a proactive stance against a disease that has an unknown beginning and no possible end? How does a woman explain to her gynecologist that she has symptoms that concern her and should be looked into on a deeper level?
A recently published study determined that endometriosis does not lead to increased aneuploidy in embryos. Researchers at Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey (RMANJ) took a retrospective look at patients who had their first IVF cycle with comprehensive chromosomal screening (CCS) and had surgical or ultrasound diagnosed evidence of endometriosis. More than 1,000 blastocysts produced by 253 patients with endometriosis were compared, by age, to general IVF patients undergoing CCS. The rate of aneuploidy was equivalent compared to their age matched controls, says Dr. Marie Werner, a reproductive endocrinologist with RMANJ, and a researcher in this study.
The only way to definitively diagnose endometriosis is with a biopsy. This is usually done during a type of surgery called a laparoscopy. During the procedure, the doctor uses a small telescope-like tube called a laparoscope to look for signs of endometriosis on the outside of the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes.
Endometriosis can be a painful, chronic disease that results when the tissue that is normally inside the uterus (endometrial tissue) grows outside of the uterine cavity. Although it is estimated to affect over one million women in the U.S., the exact number is unknown, since many women with the condition have no symptoms.
Normally, during every cycle your uterus builds up tissue (endometrium) and at the end of the month, if conception hasn't occurred the tissue is shed during a period. With endometriosis, that tissue doesn't just grow inside your uterus but outside. The tissue can appear on your ovaries, tubes, or even the lining of your abdomen. When it is outside of your uterus it acts just like it would normally - it thickens, breaks down and bleeds, but because it's in the wrong place it has no way to exit your body and becomes trapped.
I am back to the place I thought or maybe more so hoped, I wouldn’t have to visit again. Last year began 12 months of trying to wean off of a medicine and preparing for fully trying again. I had worked out a plan with my team of doctors that would hopefully allow us to try without undergoing another surgery, if at all possible. These last few weeks have unfortunately unfolded into a mess that will take that option off the table.