The “Pregnancy Cures Endometriosis” Myth

This myth can actually be traced back to Hippocrates in 5th century BC.  He believed that women had “wandering wombs” that caused “hysteria” and that only by having sex and procreation with a man, would they be cured.

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I’d like to believe we’ve advanced our thinking since then, but unfortunately with the current American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) endometriosis guidelines, and the lack of clinical evidence around endometriosis and women’s health in general, myths like these can prevail in the clinical setting.  As a physician, it’s difficult to see OB-GYN’s in 2018 “prescribe” pregnancy as a cure for endometriosis when it is patently untrue.

Now, is it true that if a woman’s pain is only a few days around her period she may get relief during her pregnancy and for a period of time following delivery, especially if she is breast feeding. Some women may experience a generalized decrease in pain while pregnant. This is most likely due to hormonal changes and possibly a result of autoimmune features of pregnancy and stem cells that are produced during this time.  While unlikely, there are others who will have pregnancies that may have complications because of endometriosis (increased risk of placenta previa with deeply invasive disease), or become highly symptomatic in the post-partum period, and beyond, which of course can be very detrimental to both mother and child.

Pregnancy does not cure endometriosis. It is irresponsible and negligent for doctors to suggest pregnancy to a woman as a treatment for endometriosis, especially if she is in severe pain, as the pain will usually return after delivery. Having to take care of a newborn child while dealing with incapacitating pain only creates more problems for a woman suffering from endometriosis.  A physician recommending pregnancy as treatment for endometriosis is a red flag as it is a sign of a basic misunderstanding of this disease by the physician and makes it likely the patient hasn’t been properly treated, or sometimes even diagnosed.  As well, for a woman who does want to have children at that time, it can cause psychological trauma if she does not become pregnant after trying. All in all, it is time to take this centuries-old myth out of clinically-evidenced based medical practices.

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