Endometriosis Symptoms

Endometriosis is a condition in which cells similar to those found inside the uterus (womb) grow in places where they shouldn’t. Women who have endometriosis may experience significant pain, infertility or both.

What are Common Endometriosis Symptoms?

There are a wide range of symptoms. Usually endometriosis symptoms occur at regular times that are often before, during or after monthly periods.

Symptoms may include:

  • Painful menstrual cramps
  • Pelvic pain that can radiate to the back, down the legs or into the vagina or rectum.
  • Bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea
  • Pain with urination
  • Pain with a bowel movement
  • Pain during or after sexual intercourse

Endometriosis Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

The Center for Infertility and Reproductive Surgery (CIRS) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) is one of the premier infertility and reproductive medicine programs in the country. Our renowned team has one of the highest numbers of physicians in the nation that are certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology in reproductive endocrinology and fertility services. Our specialized expertise and access to the latest therapies and technologies in reproductive disorders and reproductive surgery enable us to tailor treatments to meet your individual needs. The Center offers comprehensive diagnostic and treatment services, including:

Endometriosis Diagnosis

An experienced gynecologist may suspect endometriosis based on a woman’s symptoms and the findings during a pelvic exam. Currently, the only way to diagnose endometriosis is through laparoscopy – a minor minimally invasive surgical procedure that is done under general anesthesia (while the patient is asleep). Using the laparoscope (which is a type of telescope equipped with a tiny camera on the end), the surgeon can look inside the pelvic cavity and other areas to see if endometrial cells/lesions are present.

Endometriosis Treatment

There is no cure for endometriosis, nor is there one perfect treatment. Most women will need to try different treatments, which may include medications, behavioral therapy and surgery. Endometriosis treatment requires trial and error to find the best combination for any one person.

If endometriosis is seen at the time of diagnosis, it is removed by cautery (electrical energy), laser (intense light energy) or excision (surgical removal). In general, surgery of this type will lessen pelvic pain associated with endometriosis and will enhance fertility.

Often, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin® or Advil®) or naproxen (Aleve®) are prescribed first. An evaluation at a pain treatment program can often be very helpful for managing pain. Some women find that alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, physical therapy or bio-feedback, also can be helpful.

Other treatment options include hormonal therapies. Birth control pills, which contain estrogen and progestins (progesterone hormone), are usually prescribed first. Combinations of estrogen and progestin also may be prescribed as a patch (an adhesive bandage) or a ring, which is inserted into the vagina. Other options include progestin alone, gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists (drugs that lower estrogen) or Danazol (a male hormone-like pill).

Treatment for Infertility

Many women with endometriosis experience difficulty when trying to get pregnant, but this is not a universal problem among women with endometriosis. Some women will be able to become pregnant without treatment. Since all hormonal treatments prevent pregnancy, medical treatments for endometriosis are not used in women who are attempting to conceive.

Treatment options to improve fertility outcomes include:

  • Laparoscopic surgery has been shown to improve fertility, and thus is considered a treatment of choice for women with endometriosis who wish to start a family or have more children.
  • Intrauterine inseminations (IUI), fertility drugs in the form of pills or injections or in vitro fertilization (IVF). IVF is a procedure in which a woman takes fertility drugs to make multiple eggs. The eggs are removed from her ovaries and then fertilized with her partner's sperm in the laboratory. The fertilized eggs (embryos) grow in the IVF Lab for 3-5 days until the embryo(s) are ready to be implanted into the uterus.

Obstetrics and Gynecology Care at Brigham and Women's Hospital

The faculty members and researchers at the Brigham and Women's Hospital Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology are dedicated to doing everything possible to provide women and their families with the most advanced care available anywhere.

As a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, we are world-renowned for our expertise in gynecology and pregnancy, and have been a trusted name in women’s health for more than 180 years. Our rich history includes landmark research that has helped guide the care provided to women around the world. Learn more about our research.

Our commitment to patient- and family-focused care has shaped our Center for Women and Newborns at the Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women’s Health – world-renowned for the quality of our obstetrical and neonatal care and dedicated to the most comprehensive state-of-the-art obstetrical services under one roof. U.S. News & World Report has repeatedly named Brigham and Women’s Hospital among the top hospitals in the nation in obstetrics and gynecology.

Patient- and Family-focused Care

BWH has long been committed to not only the care of our patients with endometriosis symptoms but also the many other needs that they and their families have. This philosophy of patient- and family-focused care – involving systems and services that emphasize healing in a comfortable, relaxed environment – is a guiding force behind the care we provide.

Quality of Patient Care

BWH is committed to providing all of our patients with the safest, highest-quality, most-satisfying care possible and follow established protocols that have been shown to improve patient outcomes. Our Inpatient Satisfaction Survey, sent to patients’ to assess their total care experience, helps us to monitor what we are doing well and where we could improve. We pride ourselves in the Quality of Patient Care we provide and how we compare with other hospitals.

Brigham and Women’s Endometriosis Care Team

The Center for Infertility and Reproductive Surgery’s endometriosis care team is committed to patients and their families. Each patient's diagnosis and treatment plan will be designed and tailored to their needs. Our team of highly skilled doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals work together to deliver the highest quality care to every patient.

Our Endometriosis Care Team:

View a list of our endometriosis specialists.

Contact Us

If you believe you should have an evaluation of your endometriosis symptoms and would like to schedule an appointment with one of our endometriosis experts, call 1-800-294-9999 to speak to one of our knowledgeable coordinators who can help to connect you to the doctor that best meets your needs, or fill out an online appointment request form.

Learn more about Brigham and Women's Hospital

For over a century, a leader in patient care, medical education and research, with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery.

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