If you’re trying to get pregnant and you’re not having success, pelvic adhesive disease could be contributing to your infertility. With pelvic adhesive disease, scar tissue causes the organs in your abdomen and pelvis to stick to each other. “It typically affects the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and small and large intestines,” said Rachael Smith, DO, a gynecologic surgeon with Banner – University Medicine Women’s Institute in Phoenix, AZ.
Oftentimes there are no symptoms with pelvic adhesive disease. Therefore, you may not know you have these adhesions unless you are having difficulty getting pregnant. Or sometimes, you might find out you have pelvic adhesions when you have surgery for another condition. While it’s usually asymptomatic, pelvic adhesive disease can contribute to chronic pelvic pain in some cases.
What causes pelvic adhesive disease?
A few different factors could cause this condition:
- Previous surgery. You might develop pelvic adhesions if you’ve had surgery on your uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, appendix or intestines.
- Sexually transmitted infections. “The most common infections causing pelvic adhesive disease are sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia, especially when these are not caught and treated early enough,” Dr. Smith said.
- Endometriosis. This chronic condition where tissue that’s normally inside your uterus grows outside your uterus can also cause pelvic adhesions that can lead to infertility.
- Intestinal infections. Diverticulitis and appendicitis can cause pelvic adhesions as well.
How does pelvic adhesive disease affect infertility?
When you ovulate, your ovaries release an egg, and the egg travels through a fallopian tube, where it can meet with sperm and become fertilized. If scar tissue blocks the opening to your fallopian tube, the egg and the sperm can’t meet. Scar tissue could also push the ovary and the fallopian tube further apart, making it harder for the egg and sperm to connect.
How is pelvic adhesive disease diagnosed?
Surgery can diagnose pelvic adhesive disease, but it’s not recommended unless you’re having surgery for another reason, such as to remove endometriosis. Sometimes, a pelvic ultrasound can show that the gynecologic organs appear stuck together. “But this isn’t a reliable way to diagnose adhesions,” Dr. Smith said.
Because it’s hard to diagnose pelvic adhesive disease, you should seek treatment if:
- You have chronic pelvic pain, especially if the pain doesn’t seem related to your menstrual cycle.
- You have been trying to get pregnant for 12 months and you are under age 35.
- You have been trying to get pregnant for six months and you are age 35 or older.
How can pelvic adhesive disease be treated?
Treatment depends on what’s causing pelvic adhesive disease. Medical and surgical options can help treat causes like endometriosis and pelvic infections. Surgery to remove the adhesions alone isn’t recommended since studies haven’t found that it helps.
The bottom line
If you’re trying to get pregnant without success or you have ongoing pelvic pain, pelvic adhesive disease might be to blame. Several conditions could be causing pelvic adhesive disease and treating them could help you get pregnant or alleviate your pain. For help diagnosing and treating pelvic adhesive disease reach out to your gynecologist or find a health care provider near you by visiting bannerhealth.com.
To learn more about conditions that could affect your fertility, check out these articles:
- 11 Infertility Myths and the Facts Behind Them
- Diagnosing Fertility: Common Tests on the Pathway to Pregnancy
- PCOS: What Is It and Why Is It So Hard to Diagnose?