Reproductive Health

Does endometriosis affect fertility?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have endometriosis. Could this affect my fertility?

DEAR READER: Endometriosis can affect fertility -- but not in every case. Let me explain. Endometrial tissue is the inner lining of the uterus. Normally, that's the only place in the body where it grows. However, with endometriosis, the same type of tissue also grows where it shouldn't -- in places outside the uterus.

What should I do if my baby has an undescended testicle?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My new baby was born with an undescended testicle. What should we do?

DEAR READER: When a baby boy is an embryo in his mother's womb, the testicles form in the lower part of the abdomen (the pelvis). In the weeks before the baby is born, the testicles move down out of the pelvis into a sac (the scrotum) that lies outside the body. In about one-third of premature and approximately 3 percent of full-term male infants, one or both of the testicles have not completely descended into the scrotum by the time the child is born.

What would cause my menstrual period to stop?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have not had my period for three months. I'm not pregnant and I'm only 40, so I'm too young for menopause. What's going on?

DEAR READER: What you're experiencing sounds like secondary amenorrhea. I say that because you've menstruated in the past, you're not old enough to be entering menopause, and you've stopped menstruating for three or more consecutive months. That's the definition of secondary amenorrhea.

Can pelvic inflammatory disease affect fertility?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have pelvic inflammatory disease, and I'm worried this could affect my fertility.

DEAR READER: You're right to be concerned. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is the most common preventable cause of infertility in the United States. The more often a woman gets PID, the greater her risk of becoming infertile. Most cases of PID develop from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), usually gonorrhea or chlamydia.

Will improving my diet help me get pregnant?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for a few months without success. Could changing my diet help?

DEAR READER: Yes, diet could be a factor. With one surprising exception, foods that are healthy for most people also seem to improve fertility. You and your husband are not alone. It's estimated that about 6 million couples in the United States are having trouble conceiving. For one thing, couples are delaying having kids until they are older and their own lives are more secure. However, older age reduces somewhat the chance of a pregnancy. Obesity and diabetes, both of which are epidemics, also decrease fertility at any age.

What is a colposcopy?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I had an abnormal Pap smear. Now my doctor wants me to have a colposcopy. What can I expect during this procedure?

DEAR READER: Pap smears help determine if you might have cancer, or a precancerous condition, of your cervix. When a Pap smear raises such suspicions, the next step is a colposcopy. Colposcopy is generally safe and painless. It takes about 15 to 30 minutes and doesn't require anesthesia.

Is menstrual synchronization a real phenomenon?

DEAR DOCTOR K: It seems to be commonly accepted that women who live together or who are close friends get their periods at the same time. I've had the same experience. Is this a real biological phenomenon or just a coincidence?

DEAR READER: The idea that women who spend a lot of time together eventually begin to get their periods at the same time each month is called menstrual synchrony. But how this synchronization occurs — or even if it happens at all — is not well understood.