I see women struggling with endometriosis daily in my practice here in Vancouver. The symptoms vary from painful periods, excessively heavy bleeding, uncomfortable intercourse and a variety of other ailments. What most have in common is infertility. Endometriosis can cause infertility in up to 50% of those effected.
As endometriosis has such a strong connection with infertility it's interesting to find few women actually know all the different treatments available. There are many treatment options beyond drugs or surgery yet few are commonly discussed or known.
How Do You Know If You Have Endometriosis?
There is really only 1 way to truly diagnose if you have endometriosis. We can suspect endometriosis if you show some of the common signs (abdominal cramps, back pain during your period, heavy or unusual bleeding (heavy or light), painful bowel movements, painful urination, painful intercourse and infertility). Just having these symptoms does not prove you have endometriosis. Other disorders can cause similar patterns of problems. The only sure way to know 100% if you have endometriosis is with surgery.
Laparoscopic surgery is an operation where an incision in made on a womans abdomen and a lighted tube is inserted to look at the abdominal and pelvic organs. This diagnostic surgery can also be a treatment for endometriosis. During the exploratory surgery they are able to remove endometrial tissue found. Although, this tissue commonly regrows over time it will provide relief from many symptoms for some time after this procedure.
Treatment with Drugs
The most common drug therapies for endometriosis are the Birth Control Pill, Progestins, GnRH and Danazol. Unfortunately for patients trying to conceive these are not good options. Here's Why:
- Birth Control Pill - needs to be taken continuously to offer relief. As soon as you stop taking it the symptoms often return. If you are taking the birth control pill it is obvious you will have a difficult time getting pregnant!
- Progestins - This synthetic medication has a direct impact on the uterine lining and has side effects such as irregular uterine bleeding, weight gain, water retention, nausea and depression. Not a great option for couples trying to conceive.
- GnRH - Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone is a hormone which forces your estrogen levels into menopausal levels. This brings on many menopausal symptoms such as loss of bone calcium, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, ...
- Danazol - Danazol is a male like hormone which can help with the pain associated with endometriosis. Unfortunately it can cause irregular menstrual bleeding, water retention, muscle cramps and reduced breast size. This therapy does not offer anything to support your fertility.
What Are Your Treatment Options When you are Trying To Conceive with Endometriosis?
Reading all the doom and gloom above can be depressing but there are other options available to you that your doctor may know little or nothing about.
Chinese Herbal Medicine, Acupuncture, Diet and Naturopathic Medicine are rarely talked about traditional Doctors but are good stand alone treatments for endometriosis.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Herbs have been used to effectively treat the pain of endometriosis and improve fertility. In some cases better than drug therapy
and with fewer side effects. For those who are experiencing infertility Chinese herbal formulas offer a great treatment that will help improve your cycle and chances of conceiving. This is contrary to many of the drug therapies where you are unable to try to conceive during treatment. In severe cases of endometriosis, surgery may be a good option but combining surgery with Chinese Medicinal Plants
still helps by preventing the endometriosis from returning.
If I could suggest an effective treatment for endometriosis that was side effect free Acupuncture would be my go to modality! Acupuncture works by improving blood flow, decreasing inflammation and regulating hormone levels. It is a common treatment of endometriosis and improves the overall quality of life
with women who have this condition. Acupuncture can be used to help improve your chances of conceiving at the same time as decreasing these symptoms.
There is a link with diet and endometriosis in some women. Studies
have shown different foods increase the likelihood of having endometriosis while others can decrease your chances. A whole food diet, rich in vegetables (primarily green) positively help while other foods can negatively help. Following the Acubalance diet
is a great start to treating endometriosis.
At Acubalance Acupuncture, Chinese medicine and Naturopathic medicine are used closely together in the treatment of endometriosis. Naturopathic medicine is a great way to look into hormonal and autoimmune aspects of this condition. As Dr. Kali MacIsaac says in her blog "Failing to treat the inflammation and immune system imbalance of endometriosis is like cleaning one side of a dirty window. It might let through a little bit of light, but you need to do the other half of the job to yield good results". To read more about how Naturopathic medicine can help treat endometriosis read this blog
For women who have been diagnosed with endometriosis and are experiencing infertility you do have many options to help you conceive. If you are interested in hearing more about our treatment approach we offer a free 15 minute phone consultation
for you to ask questions.
Best of Health
Dr. Ryan Funk
Doctor of Chinese Medicine
Fellow of the ABORM