May 12, 2022

Endometriosis and motherhood: Grace’s story

She wanted relief from pain and a healthy baby. Her care team delivered.

After Grace and Andy got married, they were excited to have a baby.

But not long after their wedding, Grace started having severe abdominal pain. She was diagnosed with endometriosis, which can impact a woman’s ability to conceive. (Grace, a Kaiser Permanente member, and her husband, Andy, asked that their last names not be shared.)

Grace met with her ob-gyn, Amy Banulis, MD, in Falls Church, Virginia.

“She told me we were going to have the surgery I needed and that she was going to do everything to manage my pain,” said Grace.

A common but poorly understood condition

Endometriosis affects around 10% of women of reproductive age. It’s when the kind of tissue that lines the uterus grows elsewhere in the body, usually in the abdomen.

People with endometriosis often experience pain and bleeding in the abdomen and pelvis. The symptoms are often worse during the menstrual cycle because the tissue growing outside the uterus thickens and breaks down, just like it does inside the uterus. With no way to exit the body, however, this tissue can irritate and damage the surrounding organs and contribute to infertility.

Experts aren’t sure what causes the condition, but research efforts are accelerating.

Easy-to-manage care: ‘All we had to do was just take care of each other’

After her surgery, Grace’s fertility plan included many steps and tests, but she felt supported the entire time.

“The best part was that everything was coordinated. It wasn’t us having to do all the work ourselves,” Grace said. “When I went (from) one doctor to the next, within moments they had the records from the prior doctor. So everything was just really easy, and all we had to do was just take care of each other.”

Dr. Banulis reassured the couple that she felt confident they’d be able to have a child. And when Grace finally got pregnant with baby Rafael, Dr. Banulis was as excited as they were.

“It meant the world to us,” Grace said. “It’s been the best thing that we’ve ever done.”

Learn more about maternity care at Kaiser Permanente.