IVF may be as effective at helping people with endometriosis become pregnant as it is for those without.
Endometriosis can lead to inflammation, scarring, and atypical growths that affect different organs in the pelvic region. Depending on the location, this can interfere with overall function.
“For some people, these distortions can obstruct the fallopian tubes, making natural conception unlikely,” explains Alex Robles, MD, a fertility expert at Columbia University Fertility Center in New York, NY.
Structural changes and blockages aren’t the only ways endometriosis can affect fertility.
“Typically, people will try to conceive on their own for a window of time — 6–12 months, depending on age,” says Rashmi Kudesia, MD, a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist at CCRM Houston Main Center in Houston, Texas.
You might also consider consulting with a fertility specialist to learn more about your options.
“Some physicians may recommend a stepwise approach — such as intrauterine insemination — while others may jump straight to IVF,” says Kudesia.
With that in mind, IVF may be the best option for people who:
The IVF process for people with endometriosis is typically the same as for people who don’t have endometriosis, according to Kudesia.
- human chorionic gonadotropin
- follicle-stimulating hormone
- gonadotropin-releasing hormone
“In patients with endometriosis, healthcare professionals may use some additional medications to suppress estrogen hormone levels throughout the process, as estrogen is a key hormone that can drive endometriosis growth,” says Robles.
Your doctor will retrieve the eggs with the help of a transvaginal ultrasound probe and needle. While a minor surgery, healthcare professionals typically perform this procedure under sedation, explains Kudesia.
Next, they’ll take your egg(s) to a lab and mix them with your partner’s sperm sample in a petri dish. Then, they’ll carefully monitor the egg(s) to determine whether they’re developing as expected.
If sperm successfully fertilizes an egg, they can transfer the egg (now called a zygote) to your uterus through another surgical procedure.
Pregnancy only occurs if the zygote successfully attaches to the lining of your uterus. Your doctor will have you return in about 2 weeks to take a blood test and determine whether the treatment worked.
“Each patient and situation is unique, and some patients will require repeated cycles depending on their results,” says Robles.
Although healthcare professionals don’t generally recommend estrogen supplements for people who have endometriosis, the hormones can still increase your natural estrogen levels.
While short-lived, Robles says this spike in estrogen could theoretically lead to more disease-based inflammation and worsening endometriosis symptoms.
“When this is a concern, we can use medications to keep estrogen levels lower than usual,” she says.
There’s also a risk of puncturing endometrial cysts during egg retrieval.
“This is rare and typically would not lead to worsened symptoms,” says Kudesia. “But in some instances, the spillage of the cyst contents can occur and prolong the recovery.”
A fertility specialist can help you understand your options for pregnancy. If you aren’t sure where to start, the clinician in charge of your endometriosis care may be able to make a referral.
Together, you may determine that IVF is an appropriate and safe intervention for you, your body, and your family.
Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a queer sex educator and wellness journalist who is committed to helping people feel the best they can in their bodies. In addition to Healthline, her work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Health, Self, Women’s Health, Greatist, and more! In her free time, Gabrielle can be found coaching CrossFit, reviewing pleasure products, hiking with her border collie, or recording episodes of the podcast she co-hosts called Bad In Bed. Follow her on Instagram @Gabriellekassel.