Undiagnosed endometriosis affects fertility.

Undiagnosed endometriosis affects fertility.

Undiagnosed Endometriosis Linked to Lower Fertility Rates in Women

Women who suffer from undiagnosed endometriosis are significantly less likely to have children compared to their peers, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at Helsinki University Hospital in Finland. The findings emphasize the importance of early detection and treatment for women suffering from painful menstruation and chronic pelvic pain.

Endometriosis is a painful chronic inflammatory condition in which tissue from the lining of the womb grows in other places. Symptoms of endometriosis can be debilitating, including painful menstruation, pelvic pain, painful intercourse, and difficulty getting pregnant. However, it often takes up to seven years to receive a correct diagnosis, which is typically done through surgery. Diagnosis based on ultrasound findings or symptoms alone is now more widely accepted.

The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, analyzed data from over 18,000 Finnish women between the ages of 15 and 49. Each woman had surgical verification of endometriosis between 1998 and 2012. The researchers compared these women with over 35,000 women who did not have an endometriosis diagnosis. The women were followed until their first live birth, sterilization, removal of the ovaries or womb, or until the surgical diagnosis of endometriosis.

The findings revealed that women with endometriosis had significantly lower rates of live births compared to those without the condition. More than 40% of women with endometriosis delivered a live baby during the follow-up period, compared to 66% of women without endometriosis. The rate of first live births was only half among women with endometriosis compared to those without the condition.

Furthermore, the study found that the difference in live birth rates between women with and without endometriosis has been increasing over the decades. For instance, in women born during the 1940s, the difference in live birth rates between the two groups was 28% before surgically diagnosed endometriosis. However, this difference rose steadily to 87% during the 1970s.

The researchers believe that this trend may be associated with several factors, including the older age of women when they have their first baby, earlier surgical diagnosis of endometriosis, and accumulating adverse effects of endometriosis in affected women. Women with endometriosis had an average of 1.93 children before their diagnosis compared to 2.16 for those without endometriosis.

Dr. Oskari Heikinheimo, the study’s leader, highlights the importance of early diagnosis and treatment, saying, “The possible effect of endometriosis on the desired number of children highlights the importance of early diagnosis and treatment.” He also recommends that doctors should discuss with women suffering from painful menstruation and chronic pelvic pain the potential effects on their fertility and provide relevant treatment for endometriosis without delay.

It is important to note that the study reports on live births before a definitive diagnosis of endometriosis. The researchers plan to further investigate fertility rates after diagnosis and treatment in future research. This study’s strength lies in its large sample size, although it only includes surgically confirmed cases of endometriosis, potentially excluding women with milder symptoms. Additionally, the study did not collect data on whether the women wanted to become pregnant or consider the potential impact of fertility treatments.

It is crucial for both healthcare providers and women to be aware of the potential impact of undiagnosed endometriosis on fertility. By staying vigilant and seeking early diagnosis and treatment, women can take proactive steps towards preserving their fertility and achieving their desired number of children.