This past Tuesday, October 15th, was National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. It is a day to recognize those who have experienced the heart-wrenching tragedy of pregnancy and infant loss. There is still so much taboo and silence regarding these losses. The American Pregnancy Association states that miscarriage “is the most common type of pregnancy loss. Studies reveal that anywhere between 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage.” Many patients with endometriosis are at a greater risk for miscarriages, preterm labor, and ectopic pregnancies due to the effects of this disease.
There are many reasons that a woman with endometriosis can have a miscarriage. Luckily, through medical intervention, some of the reasons can be prevented.
Endometriosis affects everything from the quality of the eggs to their maturation to embryo implantation. Doctors have always suspected that endometriosis can affect the uterine lining, often interfering with embryo implantation. But now they are realizing that endometriosis can even affect egg quality itself.
A recent study found that women who did not have endometriosis, who used donor eggs from women with endometriosis, had a much lower rate of achieving a healthy pregnancy. This suggests that women with endometriosis have a lower egg quality.
One reason for this lower egg quality may be that women with endometriosis have cytokines in their peritoneal fluid due to inflammation. This fluid is part of the follicular fluid, which encases the eggs and can affect them adversely.
Doctors at the conference suggested that egg freezing is an option for young patients worried about their future family building. It is also recommended for endometriosis patients, especially those with recurrent pregnancy loss, to use in-vitro fertilization and preimplantation genetic diagnosis to help achieve a healthy pregnancy. These techniques will allow doctors to see the genetic makeup of an embryo to see whether it is genetically sound. Only transferring healthy embryos will allow patients to have a better chance at avoiding pregnancy loss. Studies have also shown that women with endometriosis have a higher success rate using frozen embryo transfer as opposed to doing a fresh IVF cycle.
It is the belief of Dr. Seckin, along with other authorities in the field that endometriosis has an immunological component that can lead to miscarriages. This is again due to excessive inflammation caused by endometriosis. The body’s own impaired immune system can result in the rejection of the early implanted embryo. Dr. Seckin believes any patients who have gone on to become pregnant and miscarry after surgical intervention should have a reproductive immunological profile. An expert reproductive immunologist can help correct or strengthen a women’s immune system. This can lead to a better chance for a healthy pregnancy.
Unfortunately, endometriosis can leave a destructive path in a patient’s pelvis. Scar tissue and adhesions can form on the fallopian tubes, which can lead to an ectopic pregnancy. This loss is not only devastating but dangerous. So, it is very important to terminate the pregnancy before the tube ruptures.
Also, some women with endometriosis often have uterine defects such as an abnormally shaped uterus (heart-shaped, or with a septum [wall] dividing it). This abnormality may interfere with maintaining a pregnancy. Dr. Seckin asks many of his new patients who have had children whether they have had atypical births. Many have experienced pre-term delivery and emergency C-section.
After complete excision of endometriosis in the pelvis, the gold standard in the treatment of the disease, all inflammation sources are eliminated. Dr. Seckin has seen a great number of his patients go on to have healthy pregnancies. He takes great care in carefully removing endometriosis on the uterus and the ovaries to help patients with their family building endevours. He often can also surgically correct uterine defects and also free up the fallopian tubes to help patients get pregnant. For those who still have issues, he works with some of the best reproductive endocrinologists and immunologists to help patients have the best chance at achieving a healthy pregnancy.
Endometriosis is a disease that forces patients to live with chronic pain. It is terrible that it can also lead to the devastating experience of pregnancy loss. Please know that you are not alone.