Helsinki University Hospital (HUS) and the University of Helsinki have recently conducted a study revealing that women tend to have fewer children before being diagnosed with endometriosis compared to healthy counterparts.
The study found that endometriosis affects fertility several years before the final diagnosis of the disease.
It was observed that women who were later confirmed to have endometriosis through surgery gave birth to approximately half the number of children compared to those who were not diagnosed with endometriosis later on.
Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects up to 10% of women of reproductive age. The condition involves the growth of uterine lining tissue outside the uterus, such as in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and even the intestines. Common symptoms include painful menstrual periods and pain during intercourse.
The diagnosis of endometriosis often takes around seven years. Currently, the disease is typically diagnosed based on medical history and clinical examination.
Early Diagnosis Supports Fertility
According to Professor Oskari Heikinheimo, who led the study, early diagnosis of the disease is crucial for fertility as well.
"Physicians who encounter women suffering from painful periods and chronic pelvic pain should consider the possibility of endometriosis. They should discuss with their patients the effects of the disease on fertility and promptly provide appropriate treatment for endometriosis," says Heikinheimo.
The study examined 18,324 Finnish women aged 15 to 49 who had surgically confirmed endometriosis between 1998 and 2012. They were compared with 35,793 women of the same age group who did not have an endometriosis diagnosis.
Before the diagnosis of endometriosis, a total of 7,363 (40%) women with endometriosis and 23,718 women (66%) without endometriosis gave birth to a live baby during the follow-up period. The average number of children for women later diagnosed with endometriosis was 1.93, while healthy women had an average of 2.16 children.
The next phase of the study will examine the post-diagnosis fertility of the same group of women after surgical diagnosis and treatment for endometriosis.
"We hope that the fertility of women with endometriosis during this later period will reach the same level as that of healthy counterparts," Heikinheimo adds.
Until now, limited information has been available regarding the number of births among women previously diagnosed with endometriosis and the impact of the condition on fertility before diagnosis.