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  • Mr Ken Emmanuel, Consultant Gynaecologist

Pregnancy often advised for endometriosis management, despite lack of evidence

Key takeaways:

  • More than 50% of women surveyed reported being advised to become pregnant to manage endometriosis.

  • Of these, 89.4% reported the advice came from health care professionals.

  • Don't tell a patient to get pregnant to treat their endometriosis. Pregnancy is not a treatment for endometriosis. There is a small subset of women whom, for reasons we don't understand, symptoms will improve if they're pregnant, but endometriosis is also one of the leading causes of infertility.

In a survey of women with endometriosis, more than half reported being advised to become pregnant to manage the disease, often by health care providers, despite little supporting evidence, researchers reported.

“Misinformation on endometriosis treatment has been reported in the literature and is perpetuated in practice, among lay people and online. One of these fallacies is that pregnancy is a cure for endometriosis,” Diksha Sirohi, from the Robinson Research Institute at Adelaide Medical School at the University of Adelaide, Australia, and colleagues wrote. “Similar findings have been reported in other studies, showcasing that receiving this advice is common and pervasive within the community. However, a recent systematic review indicates that there is no evidence that pregnancy can reduce the size or number of endometriotic lesions and concludes that evidence for an association between pregnancy and endometriosis symptoms is controversial and strongly biased.”

Sirohi and colleagues conducted a self-reported, community-based, cross-sectional online survey, the Endometriosis Patient Experience Survey, of 3,347 women who were medically diagnosed with endometriosis. The survey had 65 items and included a mix of fixed-response and open-ended questions regarding demographics, diagnosis, surgical history, advice provided about endometriosis and outcomes stemming from this advice.

Overall, 1,892 women surveyed (56.5%) reported receiving advice to get pregnant or have a baby for endometriosis management or treatment. Of these, 89.4% reported receiving such advice from health care professionals, 24.5% from family members, 22% from a friend, 15.7% from an acquaintance with endometriosis, 2% from unknown sources and 1.9% from other sources.

The three main reasons respondents cited for health care professionals advising pregnancy were as a treatment for endometriosis (68.2%), because endometriosis can impact fertility (56.1%) and as a cure for endometriosis (36.8%).

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