Thanks to the comprehensive Danish medical record system, researchers have more firmly established a family link in endometriosis risk. In addition, the recent study examined the reproductive outcomes among women born to mothers with endometriosis.
Researchers have long recognized a familial connection of endometriosis—a tissue disorder that can cause severe pelvic pain and infertility—but, until now, the generational effects on miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, successful pregnancies, and induced abortions were unclear.
Scientists and clinicians working at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Gynecology were able to use medical records from a matched group of women to determine the effects of being born to a mother with endometriosis. As expected, women born to women with endometriosis were more than 2 times as likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis as women born to mothers without such a diagnosis.
In addition, women born to mothers with endometriosis had relatively normal reproductive outcomes. When compared to women whose mothers had no endometriosis diagnosis, these women had similar birth rates, miscarriages, and ectopic pregnancies. The study did identify a slightly higher rate of induced abortions among women born to mothers with endometriosis, but this could be due to a simple difference in desired versus unplanned pregnancies among the two groups of women—the study did not collect information on women’s pregnancy intentions. Based on the study’s available information, it appears that being born to a woman with endometriosis does not significantly affect reproductive outcomes.
Endometriosis: What’s the Story?
Endometriosis is a disorder that does not affect everyone in the same way. Tissue that is normally shed during a menstrual cycle begins to grow in other areas of the pelvic region. It may attach itself to the bladder, the ovaries, or elsewhere. When it breaks down, however, it has nowhere to go. The condition may cause cysts and irritation that can cause scarring, pain, and reproductive difficulties.
Some women get a diagnosis when searching for the cause of heavy periods, pain around the time of menstruation, pain during intercourse or urination, or difficulty conceiving. The earlier endometriosis is diagnosed, the more successful treatment may be in managing pain, avoiding excessive scar tissue, and enabling reproduction. Treatment options include hormone therapy, hormonal contraceptives, over-the-counter or prescription painkillers, and surgery. If non-surgical methods may be effective, most doctors will try to avoid surgery.
If you have any symptoms of endometriosis, ask your doctor for an evaluation. Many women go undiagnosed because they confuse the symptoms with those of other problems (like urinary tract infections, hormone imbalances, or just abnormal periods). Ask your sisters and mother if endometriosis has affected any of them, and keep their answers in mind when searching for your own diagnosis. Your fertility could depend on it!