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Endometriosis is one of the most confusing conditions women can face, with many not experiencing any symptoms, and never being diagnosed. Our experts explain some of the essential information to know.

Can endometriosis occur whilst pregnant?

Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and Clinical Director of

Having endometriosis can make it harder for you to get pregnant and if you do get pregnant your symptoms may get worse in the first three months. However many women find that especially, later in pregnancy the high levels of the hormone Progesterone reduce the symptoms of endometriosis. However it is not a cure for endometriosis, and those symptoms may well come back after you deliver your baby.

How much does endometriosis affect fertility?

Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and Clinical Director of

To an extent how much endometriosis affects your fertility depends on how severe it is. In fairly mild cases most women have normal fertility. We don’t have absolute estimates, but estimates are about 60 to 70 percent of women with endometriosis can conceive normally and about half of the others can conceive with help.

Scarring as a result of endometrium like tissue, say on your fallopian tubes, or your ovaries can make things worse, but that doesn’t seems to be the only reason.

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How often does endometriosis occur?

Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and Clinical Director of

We don’t know how often endometriosis occurs because we think that a lot of women either they don’t go to see their doctor about symptoms of endometriosis or if they do, are never diagnosed.

That means the figures we’ve got are probably the tip of the iceberg. Some estimates suggest between one in ten and one in two women get some degree of endometriosis during their life time. What we do know is that if endometriosis runs in your family, you are more likely to be affected.

Can endometriosis be misdiagnosed?

Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and Clinical Director of

Unfortunately endometriosis is still misdiagnosed all too often. If it is diagnosed it often takes a long time. Estimates suggest that the average time to diagnosis is about four years, if endometriosis is causing fertility issues and seven and half years if its causing pelvic pain.

But the problem is that examining you and even ultrasound are not very accurate ways of diagnosing endometriosis. What you really need for an accurate diagnosis is a laparoscopy, a surgical procedure where a little telescope is put through the wall of the tummy to have look of what’s going on inside.

How far can endometriosis spread?

Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and Clinical Director of

Endometriosis is when endometrium like tissue, that’s cells that are like the cells that line the inside of your womb is found anywhere other than the inside of your womb. The most common place to find this is in your pelvis outside your womb, so on your fallopian tubes, your ovaries or the outside of your womb.

But it can also be found on your bladder, on your bowel and in some cases, much less commonly it can spread to very distant part of your body including even the liver or the lungs.

Does endometriosis hurt?

Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and Clinical Director of

Endometriosis where endometrium like tissues which normally lines the inside of your womb is found anywhere other than the lining of your womb is often largely a bad pain.

Very painful periods, painful sex, pain between your periods, pain sometimes when you wee or open your bowels. That pain is often in your lower tummy but it also can go to your lower back and the top of your thighs.

How to reduce pain caused by endometriosis?

Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and Clinical Director of

About three in ten women find the endometriosis resolves all on its own and some have fairly mild symptoms that can be relieved with simple pain killers. But a lot have more severe symptoms. The endometrium like tissue found outside the womb that causes the symptoms of endometriosis depends on oestrogen.

So drugs that blocks oestrogen can relieve the symptoms. These include medicines such as the GnRH analogues and a drug called Danazol. Sometimes an IUS, a hormone releasing coil fitted into the womb or the combined oral contraceptive pill may help. But none of these treatments is a cure. The best way to cure endometriosis is surgery.