A leading consultant fertility specialist who heads the St Michael’s Endometriosis Centre in Bristol is calling for greater awareness of the ‘invisible illness’ endometriosis which, according to the World Health Organisation, affects roughly 10% (190 million) of reproductive age women and girls globally.
Oli O’Donovan, who works as a consultant gynaecologist, fertility specialist and endometriosis surgeon with Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine (BCRM) said: “Many women live with endometriosis without realising they have it, although some will be only too aware of the symptoms, especially pain and difficulty falling pregnant.
“The condition occurs because tissue similar to that which normally lines the inside of the womb grows outside of it, usually on organs in the pelvis. The hormones responsible for the normal menstrual cycle make this tissue thicken and bleed every month in the same way as if it was lining the womb, which can cause pain, scarring and fertility issues.
“A doctor may suspect endometriosis based on symptoms and appropriately trial treatment, but definitive diagnosis usually requires a specialist scan or key-hole surgery.”
Recent research has revealed it takes an average of 6.7 years to be diagnosed with endometriosis
Oli O’Donovan said: “If a woman is also having difficulty falling pregnant it is definitely worth requesting an assessment by a specialist because endometriosis can halve your chances of having a baby, and we know that approximately half of patients presenting with infertility have endometriosis.
“The good news, however, is that treatments are available for most patients – and an early diagnosis will give the best outcome.
“It is very usual to have some pain with your monthly periods, but if your period pains last longer than a day or two, do not improve after taking standard painkillers, or certainly if they cause you to miss college, work or social events or if you are struggling to get pregnant, it is worth asking your GP about endometriosis and for consideration of a specialist referral.”
March is Endometriosis Action Month, and information about fertility services offered by BCRM, including investigation for endometriosis, can be found by clicking here.
Oli O’Donovan, Consultant fertility specialist