Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Stage IV Endometriosis Patient Trying To Conceive: More Time, More Surgery or IVF?


I was diagnosed 4 years ago with stage IV endo after having it excised during a lap. I had a Mirena IUD inserted during surgery and just had it removed a few months ago because I am ready to have a baby. I am very regular (26 or 28 days) and ovulation predictor tests show that I am ovulating on day 12 or 14.

Five cycles later we are not pregnant. I feel my ovaries pinch a few days before my period and am back to having pretty bad menstrual cramps (though not as bad as before the surgery). I have read a lot of your responses and see that IVF (in vitro fertilization) is your advice for stage IV endo. Do you think I am ovulating normally and what do you think my next step should be? I have a doctors appointment and am very nervous that he is going to suggest another laparoscopy!

Thank you in advance for your time. M. from the U.S.


Hi M. from the U.S.A.,

Thank you for reading my responses. Technically, you have not tried for pregnancy long enough to suspect that a problem exists. We do not define infertility until a woman under 36 has been trying for at least 12 months because it takes most women in that age group 8-12 months to achieve pregnancy naturally. If you are 36 or older, then 6 months would be the limit.

Certainly because of the history of stage IV endometriosis, you have a significant impairment to your natural fertility. Mirena helped, but it is not perfect. There is no treatment to eradicate endometriosis completely, and so it is highly probable that endometriosis is still present in the pelvis. In addition, stage IV endometriosis implies that there has been significant damage to your pelvis and it is not normal i.e. pelvic adhesions, inflammation, destruction of the normal anatomy. These will impair your natural chances for pregnancy. For that reason, in many of these patients, but not all, IVF will be required to get pregnant. I have had some spontaneous pregnancies in stage IV endometriosis patients but they are few.

Let's say after six months or one year, you still cannot get pregnant (depending on your age), you will need to pursue other options. Knowing that you have Stage IV endo, additional surgery will NOT help. You may want to go straight to IVF and avoid the surgery. That is what I would recommend. Many gynecologists will recommend the surgery because that is all they can do, they don't do IVF. They would rather do something in their power than do nothing. Instead, a good gynecologist will refer you to a fertility specialist that does IVF for at least a consultation. A good infertility specialist will probably explain that the pelvis, an essential part of your anatomy for achieving a natural pregnancy, is a hostile place for the egg. Therefore, the treatment of choice is to avoid the pelvis which is what occurs with IVF.

Good Luck on your journey and don't hesitate to write again with any other questions,

Edward J. Ramirez, M.D., FACOG
Executive Medical Director
The Fertility and Gynecology Center
Monterey Bay IVF Program
Monterey, California, U.S.A.

Comment: Thank you so much, you have quelled much of my anxiety. The scariest part about facing fertility problems is all the unknowns and the waiting. I appreciate your help.

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