Endometriosis is a painful condition that’s caused by the growth of uterine tissue, or endometrium, outside of the uterus. Up to 50 percent of women with endometriosis may have a hard time getting pregnant, but it’s often still possible to start a family if you receive the proper treatments and support.

Why does endometriosis sometimes cause infertility?

Patches of uterine tissue may grow on your ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder or other organs with endometriosis. Those tissues bleed each month when you get your period, regardless of where they are in your body. When pockets of blood form without the vagina to escape through, they can cause swelling, inflammation and scarring. Scarring and inflammation may then lead to infertility. For example:

  • Inflammation could interfere with the way your ovaries and uterus function
  • Blood-filled cysts may form in your ovaries, preventing ovulation
  • Uterine tissue can block your fallopian tubes, keeping your eggs from meeting sperm
  • The endometrium inside your uterus might not grow enough, making it harder for a fertilized egg to grow into a healthy pregnancy

To determine why you’re having trouble getting pregnant, your fertility specialist may complete a fertility evaluation, or a series of tests that could include blood work, a physical exam and a transvaginal ultrasound. That information can let him or her know which treatments may work best for you.

Your fertility treatment options

Laparoscopic surgery is the most effective treatment for infertility from endometriosis. It may be used to diagnose the cause of your infertility, determine how widespread your endometriosis is or remove tissue patches that could be blocking pregnancy.

During this procedure, a surgeon will make tiny cuts on your abdomen. He or she will guide a small camera and thin instruments through the cuts. They’ll then use the instruments to find and remove tissue patches.

Many women are able to conceive naturally after surgery, but some require additional treatments.

Other treatments include:

  • In vitro fertilization (IVF): IVF involves combining a number of your eggs with sperm in a lab dish. Once pairs are formed, they’re placed back into your uterus so that one pair, or embryo, may develop into a pregnancy.
  • Medications: Your fertility specialist might recommend medications to help you ovulate regularly or release multiple eggs in one month. Medications are often used alongside other treatments like IVF.

If you do get pregnant, having endometriosis won’t hurt the baby. In fact, the symptoms of endometriosis often improve during pregnancy.

What if you’re not ready to get pregnant, but you’d like a family some day?

If you’d like to start a family in the future, taking hormonal birth control pills now can increase your chances of getting pregnant later.

Hormonal birth control decreases the number of times you ovulate, along with the number of times you get your period, each year. Since every period could cause scarring to your ovaries, fallopian tubes or uterus, having fewer periods can boost your odds of getting pregnant in the long run.

If you have endometriosis, talk to your OB/GYN about your plans for starting a family and what treatment options are right for you.

This content is presented in collaboration with Sharecare.com.