Learn about endometriosis and pregnancy including information on getting pregnant when you have the condition.
Endometriosis is a long-term condition affecting women of childbearing age. Endometriosis can affect fertility but the majority of women with the condition are still able to get pregnant.
What is endometriosis?
In endometriosis, small pieces of the inner lining of the uterus (womb) are found elsewhere in the body. This lining is called the endometrium. The pieces of tissue may become attached to other organs, such as the bladder, bowel or ovaries.
Endometriosis affects around two million women in the UK. Most of them are diagnosed between the ages of 25 and 40. It is likely, though it has not been proved, that endometriosis is caused by a combination of genetic, immune system and hormonal factors. The condition is long-term and has no cure. However, symptoms can be managed and fertility improved with pain medication, hormone treatment or surgery.
Endometriosis commonly causes pain in the lower abdomen (tummy), pelvis or lower back. Pelvic pain often, but not always, coincides with the menstrual cycle, so you may have worse pain during your period.
Some women have few, or no, symptoms, but others experience severe pain that disrupts their lives.
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for endometriosis. However, the symptoms can often be managed with painkillers or hormone treatment, which help prevent the condition from interfering with your daily life.
Surgery to remove patches of endometriosis tissue can sometimes be used to improve symptoms and fertility too. Treatment may not be necessary if symptoms are mild.
One of the main complications of endometriosis is difficulty getting pregnant (this may affect may affect about 30- 40% of the women who have endometriosis) or not being able to get pregnant (infertility). Fertility problems occur because the tissue from the endometrium may be found in the ovaries or fallopian tube and stops these organs working properly.
Although surgery cannot guarantee that you will be able to get pregnant, there is good evidence that removing visible areas of endometriosis with a laser or an electric current during keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery can improve your chances of having a successful pregnancy.
The majority of women with endometriosis who wish to get pregnant are able to do so, either with or without some medical treatment for the endometriosis. When you are pregnant, the painful symptoms of endometriosis may reduce or disappear. However this effect is not likely to last after pregnancy and breastfeeding have finished.
NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all aspects of being pregnant, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.
NHS choices provides information on the diagnosis and treatment of the condition and its effect on fertility.
Endometriosis UK aims to improve the lives of people affected by endometriosis and work towards a future where it has the least possible impact on those living with endometriosis.