Laparoscopy for Endometriosis and How it Affects Fertility
When you have endometriosis, you may experience menstrual cycles that are heavier than usual, abdominal pain, and even infertility. And though the symptoms may be difficult, laparoscopic surgery offers new hope. Used as a procedure to both diagnose and treat certain symptoms of endometriosis, laparoscopies can decrease pain and even improve the chances of conceiving. Below you’ll find a guide to help you understand endometriosis, the laparoscopic process, and how your fertility can be affected by both.
Endometriosis, Fertility, and Laparoscopy
What Endometriosis Does and How it Affects Fertility
Endometriosis is a condition that occurs in almost 180 million women all over the world. The condition is caused when tissue (that is similar to the lining of your uterus and should only be found in your uterus) is found somewhere else. This tissue can be found anywhere within the pelvic cavity and other places of the body, like the bladder, bowel, or intestines.
The most common and widely-reported symptom is pelvic and/or abdominal pain. This pain can correlate with the menstrual cycle, but not always. Endometriosis can leave adhesions and scar tissue within the body that can affect fertility. The lesions and scarring created by endometriosis can decrease egg flow from your ovaries, block your fallopian tubes, and more. Between 30-40% of women with endometriosis suffer from some level of infertility, though there are a variety of treatments and procedures designed to help.
Doctors may use a “scale” to categorize endometriosis pain and other symptoms, which is often also an indicator used to measure the likelihood of conceiving. Your doctor may classify you into 1 of 4 categories:
- Stage 1 – Minimal pain, adhesions, etc.
- Stage 2 – Mild
- Stage 3 – Moderate
- Stage 4 – Severe
How a Laparoscopy Affects Endometriosis and Fertility
Women diagnosed with endometriosis are typically done so through a laparoscopy. The process used to diagnose endometriosis can also be used to treat the symptoms related to the condition. Laparoscopies are known to decrease overall pain in those with endometriosis, it is minimally invasive, low-risk, and can even help improve a woman’s chances of conceiving.
For women with stage 1 endometriosis, chances of conceiving increase greatly after laparoscopic surgery, though the likelihood of the procedure helping with fertility decreases as stages advance. But even those with stage 4 endometriosis may find their chances of becoming pregnant increase because of the improved function of your ovaries and fallopian tubes.
Other Treatments for Fertility After Laparoscopy Procedures
Though up to 71% of women who used a laparoscopy to treat endometriosis experience the ability to conceive after the procedure, many of those women are classified into stages 1 and 2. Many women in stage 3 and 4 may need additional assistance with fertility, through the use of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other fertility treatments.
What to Expect From an Endometriosis Laparoscopy
What Happens During the Procedure
When a doctor performs an endometriosis laparoscopy, he or she will search for scarring and lesions on a variety of areas like the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and more. After receiving anesthesia, a small incision is made near the belly button. It is here that the laparoscope (a very thin tube with a video camera attached to the end) is inserted. This non-invasive tool is what allows doctors to find any scarring or lesions.
The laparoscopy is how doctors can diagnose endometriosis, check for severity, and remove any problem areas. When the surgeon finds lesions during the laparoscopy, they can be removed. The duration of the procedure is dependent on the severity of your endometriosis, but laparoscopies can last anywhere from 30 minutes-6 hours.
Because laparoscopies are minimally invasive, most people can go home soon after the procedure. But for those with more severe symptoms and scarring, you may need to spend more time in recovery. Though you’ll need someone to drive you home because of the anesthesia, laparoscopies are considered a fairly uncomplicated surgery with minimal recovery time needed. The level of discomfort and time you’ll need to spend recovering is mostly dependent on how much needs to be removed during the surgery and how long the procedure takes.
What to Expect After
After waking up from the procedure, you will experience some discomfort and mild pain. Your medical team can help manage those immediate symptoms, but they should begin to minimize quickly. It is normal to feel tired and/or uncomfortable for the first few days following the laparoscopy. Your medical team will provide specific instructions and limitations that are dependent on your procedure, the severity of your condition, and other important factors. Some may only need a day or two to get back to driving or bathing as usual, while others may need more time to recover.
Though it may take about a week to get back to your everyday activities like lifting, exercising, and driving, that doesn’t include sexual intercourse. Your doctor will provide an estimated time-frame in which you can resume your sexual activities, but it’s best to check in with your doctor before you begin trying to conceive. The average time in which women can resume sexual activity after laparoscopy is 2-4 weeks, but it’s always important to follow your medical team’s specific instructions.
It is important to understand that conceiving right away may not be possible. Following the procedure, your body needs time to fully heal before it is able to conceive. Your medical team can help address any questions or concerns about fertility following your laparoscopy and other options for helping you conceive. Any swelling or severe pain after a laparoscopy should be reported to your medical team immediately.
Most women report a decrease in their symptoms after a laparoscopy, especially in regards to pain and discomfort. It can also decrease heavy menstrual symptoms and improve the function of the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
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