After nearly two years of trying to get pregnant, a diagnosis of endometriosis brought hope to Jennifer and Joseph Ariola of Fort Myers. After meeting with Dr. Craig R. Sweet, a reproductive endocrinologist and medical director of Specialists in Reproductive Medicine and Surgery, the couple learned that Ariola was among the 30 to 40 percent of infertile women who have endometriosis.

“After struggling so long and not knowing the cause of our infertility, we were so hopeful to finally have an explanation and treatment options,” says Ariola. “It’s often a silent disease and many women, including myself, are unaware that they have it until they try for years unsuccessfully to have a baby. That’s why awareness is so important.”

National Endometriosis Awareness Month is an annual event to raise awareness about the disease, its symptoms, treatments and ongoing research. One of the leading causes of female infertility, endometriosis is a chronic gynecological disease in which the cells from the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) grow outside the uterus and spread to other areas such as the pelvis and ovaries. The resulting damage can block the reproductive organs, in some cases preventing conception. In addition, chemical secretions from the endometriosis itself may interfere with fertility by harming eggs, sperm and embryos.The most common symptoms of endometriosis are pelvic pain, painful intercourse and painful periods. For many women, the pain of endometriosis is so severe and debilitating that it impacts their lives in significant ways. Yet once diagnosed, the condition is potentially treatable. 

“The only way to be sure a woman has endometriosis is to perform a surgical procedure called a laparoscopy that allows us look inside the pelvic cavity with a narrow telescope,” says Sweet. “Treatment is individualized for each patient and depends on several factors such as the severity and stage of the disease, its precise location, the woman’s age and the presence of pain or other symptoms. The good news is that 80 to 90 percent of the patients will have an improvement of their symptoms for up to a year following surgery. Depending on the stage of the disease, the chances of becoming pregnant also increase for most patients following treatment of the disease.”

After Sweet surgically removed the pelvic endometriosis and a polyp found within Ariola’s uterus, the couple tried to conceive naturally. Another six months passed without success and they found themselves back in Sweet’s office to discuss further treatment.

“Following diagnosis and treatment, about one-third of the women with endometriosis achieve pregnancy naturally,” says Sweet. “In some cases, however, ovulation induction combined with intra-uterine insemination or in vitro fertilization may be the next best steps with superb success rates.”

“Dr. Sweet shared with us the statistics, we discussed our chances and he offered us solutions,” says Ariola. “We opted for in vitro fertilization, a process during which my eggs were removed and harvested with my husband’s sperm. We then implanted our two embryos and fortunately, it worked on our first try. Last month, I gave birth to twins – a boy and a girl! As I hold my babies in my arms, I can honestly say it was all worth it.”

Specialists in Reproductive Medicine and Surgery, P.A. is a reproductive endocrinology practice providing comprehensive and compassionate reproductive endocrine care including IVF, preimplantation genetic implantation diagnosis (PGD), egg donation, embryo donation, gestational surrogacy, conventional surrogacy, cryopreservation of ovarian/testicular cells/tissues, sex selection, gynecology, genetics, endocrinology as well as menopausal diagnostic and treatment services.
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