If you are suffering from heartbreaking infertility or have suffered from multiple miscarriages, then you could have ‘silent’ endometriosis. A top fertility doctor tells you what you can do.
When journalist Diana Falzone was just 33, she was told that she had the ‘egg reserve’ of a woman of 44 and that her chances of getting pregnant naturally would be ‘slim to none’. “I was devastated. I felt like my whole world had been flipped upside down,” Falzone, who had always wanted to be a mom, tells HollywoodLife.com. But Falzone is not alone in having been given a diagnosis of ‘infertility.’ About 10 percent of American women have difficulty getting or staying pregnant, according to the Centers for Disease Control, reports WomensHealth.gov. On top of that, about 20-30 percent of women who are infertility patients are given a diagnosis of “unexplained infertility,” according to Dr. Kara Khanh-Ha Nguyen, a doctor at the Reproductive Medicines Associates of Philadelphia & Central Pennsylvania.
However, the good news for you, if you have been told you’re infertile or if you have had multiple miscarriages, is that there could be an answer for you. “A majority of women with unexplained infertility probably have silent endometriosis and a majority of those women can be treated for it, Dr. Jeffrey Braverman, a reproductive immunologist, of Braverman IVF & Reproductive Immunology Center, tells HollywoodLife.com exclusively. He explains that both women who can’t get pregnant or who have a first baby and then can’t conceive or repeatedly miscarry after that, could very well have ‘silent’ endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a condition in which the tissue that lines the uterus grows outside of it — around the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the bladder and even onto other organs. While many victims of endometriosis like Diana Falzone and actress Lena Dunham experience excruciating pain and bleeding, others have no symptoms at all, at least until they try to get pregnant and can’t, or they have repeated miscarriages. Dr. Braverman explains that most gynecologists and fertility experts don’t yet understand the role that endometriosis plays in damaging the condition of a woman’s eggs, or in creating a hostile environment for embryos in a woman’s uterus.
First of all, Dr. Braverman, reassures women like Diana who have been told that they already have a “low” or “diminished” egg reserve that this does not make them sterile. “Most obstetricians think that once your reserve is low, it’s because your eggs are no longer good. However if you clean up the environment of the uterus [and ovaries] you improve the quality of the eggs,” explains Dr. Braverman. What Dr. Braverman means is that endometriosis also creates inflammation in the reproductive areas and that this damages the eggs. He has found that with surgery to remove the endometriosis lesions, followed by antioxidant supplements, the inflammation is reduced, improving the reproductive environment. All of this improves the egg quality and the result are successful pregnancies for many women.
Diana Falzone was one of those women. After two surgeries to remove endometriosis lesions, she underwent in vitro fertilization treatments, produced healthy embryos and is now five months pregnant with her first child. Infertility, following one pregnancy, can also be explained by endometriosis. Since endometriosis is an autoimmune disease, it can also cause a woman’s immune system to start making antibodies against her husband’s genetics, explains Dr. Braverman. “The maternal immune system is normally turned off to foreign genetics ,but inflammation in a woman’s reproductive organs interferes with all these mechanisms,” explains Dr. Braverman. “And the longer that a woman goes without treatment, the stronger her immune system response will get.” In other words, if the endometriosis isn’t treated, either her egg quality gets more damaged resulting in infertility, or it triggers a woman’s immune system to reject embryos that she creates, causing miscarriages.
All of which means that it is possible for women suffering from “infertility” associated with endometriosis to conceive and to carry their pregnancies to term, but they need to work with very informed fertility experts. Pregnant endometriosis patients are also considered high risk for developing blood clots during the pregnancy, having a premature birth or suffering from pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure) and so they need to be monitored very carefully.
But listen, the good news is that your infertility may be explained by endometriosis, and endometriosis can be treated. Dr. Braverman has had a 70% success rate with patients getting pregnant using their own eggs, even if they have had 5 or more miscarriages. Diana Falzone is one of them! For more information, go to Braverman IVF & Reproductive Immunology Center. For more information on Endometriosis, visit the Endometriosis Association.