I can’t count the number of times that I have been asked, “Do I really need to do a semen analysis?” Infertility is not just a “woman” issue. In the past, infertility was often believed to be due to the woman; however, studies indicate that 35-40% of infertility is related solely to a male factor. … Read more
Associate Medical Director (SIRM)
Sher Fertility Clinic - St. Louis
This month is ‘National Endometriosis Awareness Month’. Instead of discussing its medical aspects, I thought it more appropriate to discuss the personal side of endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a benign gynecological condition where the uterine lining (endometrium) grows on pelvic structures outside the uterine cavity. It is true that is ‘benign’ from that standpoint of not being a form of cancer or malignancy. However, it is a medical condition that has long-term, even lifelong implications. From a gynecological perspective, endometriosis can cause extremely painful periods, severe pelvic pain even without menstruation, painful intercourse, and infertility.
Any and all of these symptoms can affect a person’s quality of life. And unfortunately, curative treatment renders a woman sterile. Endometriosis can only be definitively diagnosed with invasive surgery; it is only with surgery that one can determine the severity of the disease and the extent of its damage. There is little correlation between the severity of endometriosis and symptoms being experienced. However, there is correlation with the extent of endometriosis and its impact upon fertility.
I, myself, have Stage IV endometriosis and have suffered from many of the symptoms that I listed above; however, I was just diagnosed a few years ago. Before my diagnosis, I had multiple pregnancy losses and secondary infertility (the inability to get pregnant after being able to conceive in the past). I underwent IVF multiple times to increase the likelihood of getting pregnant and delivering a healthy child but it never worked, even though I had a >50% chance of success with each attempt. Happily, I now have a wonderful daughter and family despite my reproductive history. These experiences have given me unique personal and medical insight into the implications of having endometriosis.
We know that endometriosis impairs fertility by causing scarring within the pelvis, thus interfering with the transport of an egg/embryo through the fallopian tube.
We know that peritoneal toxins associated with endometriosis reduce the ability of an egg and sperm to fertilize and thus IVF is often the treatment of choice (so that these toxins are avoided).
But what about lesser known mechanisms? Activated Natural Killer cells can cause decreased fertility potential in women with endometriosis. Interestingly, approximately 30% of women with endometriosis have activated Natural Killer cells. This form of immunologic implantation dysfunction is a theory proposed and successfully treated by Dr. Sher. In fact, the Sher Institute for Reproductive Medicine stands alone in its understanding, assessment, and treatment for immunologic implantation dysfunction in women with and without endometriosis.
I think back to my multiple pregnancy losses and failed IVF cycles, when no one was able to figure out what could have been the underlying problem. And while I wasn’t officially diagnosed with endometriosis until much later, I’m sure that I had some endometriosis (perhaps Stage I) at the time of my miscarriages and treatments. My failed treatments simply may have been due, in part, to activated Natural Killer cells…
In a way, I’m fortunate to have experienced the impact of endometriosis so that I can better understand a patient’s perspective. Better yet, by being a physician, I can test patients for immunologic implantation dysfunction and treat them appropriately.
Responses to "The Personal Side to Endometriosis"
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Hello to all, Over the past decade, I have had the privilege and pleasure to meet with hundreds of women and couples seeking treatment for infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss. Patients often come to their initial visit with trepidation and anxiety. And with good reason…they are about to discuss one of the most personal aspects … Read more
Molina Dayal, MD is an experienced and compassionate physician that is renowned for her personalized patient care. As the only female Reproductive Endocrinologist in private practice in St. Louis, she is a welcome addition to the SIRM family. Dr. Dayal has received multiple awards and recognition based on ratings from both patients and peers in the … Read more