Endometriosis, or “endo,” is a condition that causes tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) to grow outside of the uterus where it doesn’t belong. These patches of tissue are known as lesions or implants and are often painful and bleed. Endometriosis impacts around 10% of women of reproductive age and is one the most common causes of infertility in women.
There are surgical and medical treatments to minimize the negative effects of endometriosis. Treating endometriosis can decrease symptoms and boost your ability to get pregnant. But in some cases, you may consider freezing your eggs in order to preserve your future fertility. It is important to remember that surgical treatment of endometriosis within the ovary (endometriomas) can ultimately reduce the ovarian reserve or the total pool of existing eggs. Therefore, it can be good idea to consider egg freezing if you have endometriosis.
When you’re ready to use your frozen eggs, you can do in vitro fertilization (IVF). This can give you the best chances of getting pregnant, even if your endometriosis has progressed.
Reasons to consider egg freezing with endometriosis
Here are the top five reasons why you should consider egg freezing if you have endometriosis.
1. Help you focus on treatment
If your endometriosis is causing you pain and surgical treatment is recommended, freezing your eggs can increase your chances of a future healthy pregnancy while allowing you to focus on treating the pain.
2. Better future egg quality
An unfortunate side effect of getting older is that your eggs do, too. As eggs age, they are more likely to have chromosomal abnormalities, which increases your risk of miscarriage and reduces the likelihood of a successful pregnancy. Freezing your eggs before the endometriosis progresses will help preserve your egg quality. If your eggs are frozen when you’re younger, and then later used, those younger eggs have a higher chance of pregnancy success with IVF.
There’s also some evidence endometriosis can cause damage at the DNA level within your eggs. If you end up needing IVF in the future because of the effects of endometriosis, it may be more difficult later on to get good quality eggs.
3. Endometriosis can affect egg count
Your egg count is also known as your ovarian reserve. Endometriosis can diminish your ovarian reserve compared to those who don’t have the condition.
Over time, endometriosis can cause cysts on the ovaries, known as endometriomas. These can bleed just as uterine tissue does when you have your period. In addition to causing pain, bleeding can cause tissue to become inflamed and scar tissue can grow. The cysts themselves can also reduce the number of eggs you have.
If your endometriosis continues to advance and you need to do IVF, it can impact how many eggs can be successfully retrieved for freezing.
4. Surgery can damage healthy eggs and tissue
The surgery intended to help treat endometriosis can cause damage to the ovaries and in some cases, the entire ovary may have to be removed at the time of surgery. If you need to have cysts removed from your ovaries, the surgery itself might also impact your overall egg count.
Doctors will sometimes recommend you freeze your eggs before surgery in case your fertility is negatively affected by the surgery.
5. Help with fertilization
Inflammation from endometriosis can make it harder for sperm to fertilize an egg, and scar tissue in the fallopian tube can prevent an egg from travel to the uterus. Endometriosis can also make it more challenging for fertilized eggs to implant in the uterus.
Although freezing your eggs can’t guarantee you’ll get pregnant, it does offer a chance to maintain your current egg quality by freezing them in time for when you’re ready to use them. It also means you can focus on getting your endometriosis under control before you conceive. Schedule an appointment a with CCRM Fertility specialist to discuss your options and see if egg freezing could be part of a comprehensive approach for addressing your endometriosis.
Written by: Dr. Wael Salem, a board certified reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist at CCRM Fertility San Francisco.