Endometriosis affects women in their reproductive years. Although a woman may not know she has endometriosis until she is in her late teens or early twenties, the effects of the disease are far-reaching and long-standing. Endometriosis can rob a woman of her fertility and can leave her feeling exhausted and in discomfort and pain, especially at the time of her menstrual cycle.
Cause, Unknown-Effect, Devastating
The exact cause of endometriosis is unknown. It may be genetic and some studies indicate that sisters have a six times increased risk compared to their husbands’ sisters and an eight times increased risk when compared to other women. Sisters who are affected tend to have the disease in a more severe form than those who are not related. The studies are incomplete in terms of genetic relation, but the fact does remain that endometriosis is a common and often undiagnosed disease among women.
Women with anything more than very mild endometriosis have a difficult time conceiving a pregnancy. Many times, they are infertile and have to embark upon the path of assisted reproduction therapy to have a baby. For women who are able to conceive, the very state of pregnancy can put endometriosis into remission. The other side of the equation is that endometriosis causes infertility by affecting ovulation and causing a luteal phase defect.
Luteal Phase Defect-What It Is
Luteal phase defect is a commonly misunderstood condition that frequently affects fertility. When the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle is affected, as it often is when a woman has endometriosis, then her ability to release eggs at the appropriate time in order for them to be fertilized is also affected. In the end, the woman is infertile, in that the eggs are not released appropriately.
The luteal phase refers to the amount of time during the menstrual cycle between ovulation and the onset of the next menstrual period. In the cycle of most women who menstruate normally, the luteal phase is 10 to 14 days. If the luteal phase is less than 10 days or more than 14 days, then it is possible the woman is suffering from luteal phase defect.
Isn’t It Always About Hormones?
The hormone FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) is created during the normal cycle in a woman’s body. This hormone carries the responsibility of forming a mature follicle, which will contain an egg, in one of the ovaries. When the follicle bursts, it releases the hormone progesterone, which is the hormone that signals the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) to thicken in preparation for the implantation of the fertilized egg. When the luteal phase is less than 10 days, the endometrium is not sufficiently prepared to house a fertilized egg and a pregnancy cannot be sustained. Even if the egg is fertilized, it will spontaneously abort-often without the woman even knowing she is pregnant-because the pregnancy is not viable.
When a woman has endometriosis, the disease often disrupts her luteal phase. Anovulation causes a luteal phase defect, which interferes with implantation. If she wants to have a baby, treatment of the endometriosis is imperative, and assisted reproduction therapy is often necessary.