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Researchers shine new light on endo and fertility

Research 12 Feb 2019
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Women with endometriosis as likely to get pregnant as women without endo, say Melbourne researchers.

New research has further dispelled a common myth that women with endometriosis are unable to have a baby.

According to a study published in The European Journal of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care, women with endometriosis are as likely to fall pregnant as those women without the condition – whether they intend to or not.

Endometriosis is a condition that affects a woman's reproductive organs. It occurs when cells similar to those that line the uterus are found in other parts of the body.

Endometriosis affects around one in 10 women of reproductive age and can cause debilitating symptoms including heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, depression and anxiety.

Endometriosis has also been associated with infertility. However, the association has often been overstated, causing distress for women diagnosed with endometriosis who believe they're infertile.

According to the researchers, there has been undue focus on addressing infertility issues during endometriosis management, and not enough on information about fertility and family planning.

The study found that even though women with endometriosis had faced difficulties trying to have a baby – including being more likely to have attempted conception and to have use assisted reproductive technology (ART) – they were just as likely as women without endometriosis to have been pregnant, have had a live birth, or an unintended pregnancy.

The study, undertaken by researchers at the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University, Melbourne, compared the fertility experiences of 1543 women in Australia who did and didn't report endometriosis.

The results of the study demonstrate the need for women with endometriosis to receive fertility information and advice as part of their standard care, as well as more individually-focused care.

Chris Enright, the Head of Education and Knowledge Exchange at Jean Hailes, says the study results "support the need for health care and information that addresses all aspects of fertility management for women with endometriosis".

"As the majority of women with endometriosis who want to have children ultimately do, it's unhelpful to women to address infertility only," Ms Enright said. "This fails to reflect most women's experiences and undermines informed decision-making to bring about optimal childbearing.

"For example, this includes contraception advice. Misconceptions around endometriosis and infertility may have led some women to underestimate their fertility, which can result in unintended pregnancy."

Next month is National Endometriosis Awareness Month. Read more information on endometriosis.