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The Truth About Endometriosis & Your Fertility

The Truth About Endometriosis & Your Fertility

Endometriosis, is a women’s health issue that has been getting a lot of press recently from celebrities speaking openly about their struggles with the disease. Celebrities from Padma Lakshmi and Tia Mowry to Lena Dunham have all shared their experiences. Even so, there remains a lot of myths and misconceptions circling around endometriosis – and its connection to fertility. Given our dedication to women’s health we wanted to take a minute to share the 411 with you.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a disorder in which the tissue that normally lines the uterus – endometrium tissue – spreads, and grows outside of the uterus where it shouldn’t be. Most commonly, this tissue spreads to nearby areas like the ovaries, bowel, or pelvis. Endometrial tissue may also spread to other areas of the body, but this is very rare.

During each menstrual cycle, this tissue continues to act as it would if it was in the uterus (where it should be)– it thickens, breaks down, and bleeds. However, since this tissue lies outside the uterus, it has no exit, so it becomes trapped. This can irritate the surrounding tissue causing scarring and pain, sometimes very severe.

How common is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is the most common gynecological disorder, affecting between 2 and 10 percent of women in the US. It can be a particularly debilitating condition for some women that causes them to miss work and other important life events, while others may experience little to no symptoms.

What are the causes and symptoms?

The exact causes of endometriosis are still unknown. However, the most widely accepted theory suggests that during a women’s period, endometrial tissue breaks up and rather than exiting as it should, it reverses and travels backward, up through the fallopian tubes attaching itself to other areas and growing there.

Some women may experience no symptoms at all, but many women do. The most common symptoms are; pain that feels like intense menstrual cramping, pain during sex, abnormal or heavy periods, fatigue, infertility, and gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea or nausea.

Can endometriosis affect fertility?

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine estimates that 24 to 50 percent of women who experience infertility have endometriosis. As such, it is considered one of the top 3 causes of female infertility. In many cases, infertility may be only temporary as laparoscopic surgery can be done to remove any cysts or scar tissue, thus restoring fertility. These cysts and/or scar tissue are thought to prevent the ovary from releasing an egg, or impair the implantation of a fertilized egg. Permanent infertility due to endometriosis affects only a very small percentage of women, and most women go on to have a child if they choose.

How is endometriosis treated?

Treatment for endometriosis varies on a patient to patient bases. When determining a treatment plan your physician will take into consideration your symptoms, overall health, disease severity, and desire for pregnancy in the future. For mild cases, physicians may suggest “watchful waiting” or OTC pain medications like ibuprofen. In some cases, birth control pills or hormone therapy may be used to reduce symptom severity. Surgical treatments may also be used, laparoscopy for example, a minor surgical procedure also used to help confirm an endometriosis diagnosis.

Endometriosis misconceptions.

Unfortunately, since little is understood about the causes of endometriosis, and women can experience very different symptoms, many misconceptions have come up surrounding this disease. For many years, doctors choked up endometriosis to women just being hysterical or mentally ill – which is completely untrue as we now know today. This left women unable to finish their education, maintain a career, or have a stable relationship. Even though much more is known today, women still struggle in receiving a timely diagnosis.

Endometriosis is a real disease, with real symptoms, and it’s important to know what to look for. Firstly, severe period pain that knocks you down and prevents you from doing daily activities, is not normal, and it’s not “all in your head” as previously thought by physicians. If pain is interfering with your life, see a gynecologist.

Second, endometriosis doesn’t discriminate by age. Even teenagers and young women may suffer from the disease. As the disease progresses, symptoms may become more severe by age. Thirdly, endometriosis does not equal infertility. Many women with endometriosis go on to have children if they choose to. Treatment can help with this, and even without treatment, many women with endometriosis will go on to conceive naturally.

As always, we hope this article has given you some helpful information. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or to learn more.

We will do our best to keep you updated on any advancement in the world of reproductive health and together we can help women take charge of their fertility.

Men Have a Biological Clock!

Men Have a Biological Clock!

We’ve probably all been there and even used the expression ourselves at some point, your biological clock is ticking! Maybe it starts in our 20s with a little nudge from our mother’s, but pretty soon our friends and even coworkers are joining in during our 30s, and in our 40s…forget about it! All you hear is – hope you’re not too late!

As women, we start feeling this pressure early on, but what about men? Do they feel like they’re on a timeline to have kids? Probably not. The idea of “the biological clock” for fertility came about shortly after birth control became available and women started putting off having children to focus more on their education and careers. Sound familiar? You’re not the only one. Statistics post birth control of women waiting until the age of 30 or after to get pregnant skyrocketed. And still today women are choosing to wait longer than ever before.

As it turns out, women may not be the only ones with a ticking clock. Men may have one as well. In the book, The Male Biological Clock , by Henry Fisch, an expert on infertility. He discusses the notion that men too have a ticking clock. He notes that while this clock might not have a finite ending like menopause for women, men’s testosterone levels and sexuality do decline with age. These changes happen much more gradually than in women, and about 10 years later.

Society also gets behind the idea that men are able to have children virtually their whole life.  This has been heavily tied to the idea of the “macho man” or the “playboy”. Several male celebrities have even had kids well into their 50s and 60s. Steve Martin (AKA the father of the bride) had his FIRST child at 67, an age when most people retire and have grandchildren. Legendary ladies man Hugh Grant had his first at 51, and Bruce Willis recently welcomed his 4th. I should mention though, these men all had children with much younger women.

Research into men’s fertility is also about 10 years behind women’s fertility research. There’s a good reason for it to. Most of the baby making responsibilities come from the maternal side of things. Think about it, from menstruation, then housing the baby for nine months, to giving birth, and even breastfeeding. All female centered responsibilities. Even IVF and many infertility treatments and tests are female focused rather than male. What research has been slowly uncovering though is that men too experience declining hormone levels and can play a role in increased health risks of the child.

In a recent scientific review that analyzed previous research done on men and infertility they found that advanced paternal age was linked to lower semen quantity, reduced sperm count, and a higher number of defective or damaged sperm. Another review looked into the impact aging might have on sperm DNA. DNA quality is important since each sperm is filled with DNA to be passed down through the generations. Each time new sperm is created, small mutations happen in the DNA. Over time, and with increasing age, they found that heavily mutated DNA in sperm samples could be linked with neurocognitive disorders like, autism and schizophrenia in the children. DNA damage in sperm has also been shown to more than double the rates of miscarriage in patients with high levels of DNA damage compared to those at lower levels.

Even though this research demonstrates that sperm quality can and does decline over time, many men are looked over when a couple is having fertility issues. Often times, the woman is looked at first for being the source of the trouble, but this may not be the case.

A study in the UK looked at couples trying to conceive naturally over a period of time, and assessed how long it took them to conceive. After accounting for potential culprits like mother’s age, sexual activeness, and other health factors, the likelihood of conceiving within a 6 month or 12 month timeframe was lower in older men and compared to younger men. Another study done in the UK found similar results as well. They found that men aged 45 and older were five times less likely to conceive in comparison to men 25 and younger. They also found that men 45 and older were 12 ½ times more likely to take 1-2 years to conceive than men 25 and under.

We’re not trying to scare you here with this information, and start you off thinking that everyone’s time is running out to have babies. What we do want to share is that women are not the only ones who experience infertility or contribute to a child’s future health. Men’s health and fertility can be an important factor in fertility as well. Research has shown that as men age they experience hormonal changes that can contribute to genetic diseases in children, to miscarriage, and to having trouble conceiving.

Women have sharper cut-offs in fertility, while men’s is more gradual. Men also have about 10 years longer than women before they start to see a decline – lucky! but, they too have a clock. In normalizing the idea of the biological clock for men, we could see an increase in research and medical services catered to male infertility, more doctors speaking to their male patients about fertility health, and maybe even men starting to think more about their own sexual health.

As always, we hope this article has given you some helpful information.  Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or to learn more.

We will do our best to keep you updated on any advancements in the world of reproductive health and together we can help women take charge of their fertility.

6 Tips to Keep the Sizzle this Valentine’s Day

6 Tips to Keep the Sizzle this Valentine’s Day

When you’re trying to conceive month after month, sex can start to feel like a bit of chore. Adhering to schedules, calculating the optimum time for conception, and or even worse…”sex homework” from your doctor. If this sounds familiar, we’ve got you covered. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to shake things up. Here are 6 tips to get back the sizzle!