When you are trying to start a family and things are not happening as quickly as you would like, it can be difficult to know when to seek help.
But sometimes there can be telltale signs of potential fertility problems that are best investigated as soon as possible if you are trying to conceive.
One of the most common medical causes of infertility is a condition called endometriosis.
Often dismissed as a bad period, many women live with endometriosis for years without seeking medical advice. For some, it’s not until they try to start a family that they realize something isn’t quite right.
If you have endometriosis, or think you have it, you’re not alone. It’s a condition experienced by one in ten Australian women and it is estimated that up to 30 per cent of women facing fertility problems also have endometriosis.
Genea fertility specialist Dr Hilary Joyce explains: “It’s a condition in which the tissue that normally lines the uterus, grows outside the womb, most commonly in the pelvis on places such as the ovaries, bowel, bladder, cervix and fallopian tubes.”
The signs and symptoms of the condition can be varied. Some women have no symptoms, but for others it can be extremely painful and affects their ability to lead a normal life at times.
“Common signs of endometriosis include pelvic pain, discomfort during intercourse, heavy or irregular periods and pain when passing urine,” Dr Joyce adds.
“Many of my patients also complain of bowel discomfort including constipation, bloating and diarrhoea.”
To diagnose endometriosis a doctor will normally conduct a gynaecological laparoscopy, a procedure done under anaesthetic to examine the fallopian tubes, ovaries and womb using an instrument with a video camera attached.
Unfortunately many women with endometriosis have trouble conceiving too.
“Endometriosis can affect egg and sperm function, as well as embryo implantation,” says Dr Joyce.
But, the good news is, in most cases endometriosis can be treated with keyhole surgery and the majority of women will have a healthy baby either naturally or with the help of IVF.
Whilst doctors aren’t 100 per cent sure what causes endometriosis they do believe that women with a family history have an increased risk. So, make sure you speak to other women in the family if you are experiencing symptoms.
“If you have period pain that is so severe you can’t go to work, need to take painkillers every month or your relationship is affected because intercourse is painful, see a fertility specialist,” Dr Joyce says.
“When it comes to fertility issues early diagnosis is key. “