About 5 million American women are living with endometriosis, according to the National Institutes of Health. Endometriosis is a painful condition that can make it harder to get pregnant. It’s caused by the growth of uterine tissue, or endometrium, outside of your uterus. Patches of tissue may appear on your ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder or even distant organs in some cases.

The number-one symptom of endometriosis is pain. That’s because uterine tissue bleeds every month when you get your period—no matter where it is in your body. When pockets of blood form without the vagina to escape through, it can cause inflammation, uncomfortable swelling and scarring. Inflammation and scarring in places like your fallopian tubes are just some of the ways that endometriosis might interfere with pregnancy. But it’s often possible to get pregnant, despite endometriosis, with the proper treatments and support.

How does endometriosis affect fertility?

Up to fifty percent of women with endometriosis have a hard time getting pregnant. More research is needed to learn exactly why that is—and the causes may vary from woman to woman—but possible explanations include:

  • Cysts, or blood-filled pockets, can form in your ovaries, preventing ovulation
  • Uterine tissue can block your fallopian tubes, keeping sperm from reaching your eggs
  • The lining of your uterus may not grow enough to support a healthy pregnancy

If you’d like to start a family, the first step is to work with your OBGYN or fertility specialist to determine why you’re having a hard time conceiving. Even if you’ve already been diagnosed with endometriosis, you may need additional tests like a trans-vaginal ultrasound, to learn which treatments might be best for you.

What are your fertility treatment options?

The most effective fertility treatment for endometriosis is laparoscopic surgery. For this procedure, a surgeon will make small cuts on your abdomen. He or she will then guide thin instruments through the cuts to locate and remove any tissue patches that could be blocking pregnancy. After surgery, you may be told to try conceiving naturally for about six months before considering additional treatments.

Another option is to undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF). IVF involves combining some of your eggs with sperm in a laboratory dish. Any pairs, or embryos, that form will be placed back into your uterus so that one may become a healthy pregnancy. It typically takes about two weeks to know whether IVF was successful.

Your fertility specialist might recommend taking medication alongside other treatments like IVF to help you release multiple eggs in one month. If your endometriosis is mild, he or she may prescribe medication on its own to boost ovulation or help you ovulate regularly.

If you have endometriosis and are thinking about starting a family, talk with your doctor.

This content is presented in collaboration with Sharecare.com.