In light of it being National Endometriosis Awareness Week and Month, we want to be a helpful resource of information, stories and personal insight for you regarding this confusing condition.
What is Endometriosis? During a woman's monthly hormonal changes the lining of the uterus (called the endometrial tissue) is caused to thicken in preparation for pregnancy. If the woman does not become pregnant, the cells naturally break down and “bleed” out of the body as part of the menstrual cycle. Endometriosis occurs when these cells develop elsewhere in the body, outside of the uterine walls. These cells go through the same monthly cycle, but have no outlet to leave the body (or bleed out) once they break down. This causes inflammation (swelling) and potentially the formation of scar tissue in the affected areas.
This tissue may grow on the outside of your uterus, ovaries, and tubes and even on your bladder or intestines. This tissue can irritate the parts of the body that it touches, causing pain (but not always) and adhesions (scar tissue) on these organs. Needless to say, endometriosis can make it difficult to become pregnant.
Endometriosis currently affects 1 in 10 women, 10% of the female population, an estimated 176 million women worldwide. Statistics show 30% to 50% of infertile women have endometriosis, yet a trusted Reproductive Endocrinologist shared with us that he believes it is closer to 60-70% of women that have some amount of endometriosis and don’t know it. An estimated 60% of all fertility patients have some symptoms, cysts and/or adhesions indicative of endometriosis.
We encourage you to seek help, ask questions and advocate for yourself and your health. Here is a personal account of endometriosis from Hallie Wallace, a Waiting in Hope Ministry Local and National Leader.
Many women with endometriosis have chronic pelvic or abdominal pain, particularly with their menstrual bleeding and/or with sex. Some women have no symptoms. Sometimes, endometriosis can grow inside your ovary and form a cyst (endometrioma). In even more rare cases, adhesions occur on other major organs. This usually can be seen on ultrasound, unlike other endometriotic tissue. The only way to tell for certain if you have endometriosis is through a surgical procedure called laparoscopy.
Consider that a checklist for me...at least the second half. I had (and still have) endometriosis.
I did not have unusually heavy periods, nor did I experience terrible pain during my cycle or sex. So for two years, it went undetected, unsuspected.
After countless needle pricks, blood draws and procedures coming up negative or “normal,” my physician suggested an exploratory surgery to see if it was indeed endometriosis. I understood the surgery to be more of a formality — to rule out endometriosis. Within minutes of being put under anesthesia, we had our answer — stage 4 (severe) endometriosis. I had scar tissue everywhere. My fallopian tubes were tethered to the back of my abdomen, restricted from movement. My colon, uterus and abdominal wall were covered. I had so much scar tissue that they could not perform the necessary removal with only one surgeon. So, they took some pictures, gave me a few tiny stitches and scheduled another surgery (with multiple surgeons) for four months later.
This was not the end of our story, but merely a marker, a reminder of the end to one period of waiting. We no longer wondered if there was a physical or anatomical reason for our family not growing by natural conception. Now we knew the why; Next, we made a plan for the how.
Sisters may I encourage you to seek after Him, first, then petition for His will and guidance along your walk with Him.
For the first year, I kept hoping (and praying for) a positive pregnancy test, a surprise for our parents; the next few months I prayed and wished for negative test results and clear blood panels — bring on the normal! But then, God softened our hearts—several times it felt more like suffocation—to see as He sees. Then, we prayed for doctors’ skill and wisdom, the Lord’s will, for clear answers if He saw fit. When I first woke up from that first exploratory surgery (laparoscopy), I was simultaneously relieved and sad. Although I did not want to wait, for more medication, then surgery, I was grateful that we had a diagnosis. For that, we had to wait no longer. God gave us a physical answer. Be encouraged, my friends.
A diagnosis is not the end; It is the beginning of the next chapter, whatever God may have that be.
I cannot guarantee you a baby. I do not know what tomorrow will bring. But, I can tell you this: Our God does not wonder. He is not worried. He has not forgotten you, dear one. He sees you, waits with you.
Our God is mighty and just. He is a loving Father and a Perfect Planner. He has a very specific plan for you, sister. Just you (wait) and see!
Hallie Wallace - National Team Editor, Tyler Local Leader - Editor@waitinginhopeinfertility.com
*Statistics and definitions are from Texas Center for Reproductive Health, ReproductiveFacts.org and Endometriosis.org