Endometrial Thickness in Pregnancy – Causes & Treatment
- What Is an Endometrium?
- How Does It Look Like?
- What Is the Normal Endometrial Thickness for Pregnancy to Occur?
- What Causes a Thin Endometrium?
- What Causes a Thick Endometrium?
- Symptoms of Thick Endometrium
- How Can You Measure Endometrium Thickness?
- Diagnosis and Treatment for Endometrium Thickness in Pregnancy
- Ways to Increase Endometrial Thickness for Conceiving
- When to See Doctor?
For a female body to conceive and sustain a pregnancy, a number of things need to fall into place. Fertilisation is just the tip of the iceberg – there are a ton of processes that take place in your uterus that ensure the egg stays secure. One of the key aspects in that regard is the endometrium and the thickness of its wall. We all must be aware of what happens inside our bodies during pregnancy. So, in this article, we shall discuss what an endometrium is and all the aspects regarding endometrial thickness for pregnancy, which is essential to help women conceive successfully. We will also look at ways to increase endometrial thickness for conceiving. Let’s begin!
What Is an Endometrium?
The uterus has a lining made of mucous membranes on the inner side of its wall. This lining is called the endometrium. The endometrium has two layers – one is the functional layer that sheds itself during each menstrual cycle, and the other layer is the base that remains on the wall of the uterus permanently. It characteristically thickens in size every month throughout the fertile years of every woman. When it thickens, it serves as a nutrient-rich medium for the embryo to plant itself into Let’s find out a little more about its thickness in the next section.
How Does It Look Like?
On MRI or an ultrasound, the endometrium looks like a dark line called an endometrial stripe. Let’s take a look at the points given below and understand its appearance, thickness, and changes.
- Menstrual and Early Proliferative Phase: The endometrium is a thin and bright echogenic stripe that has a basal layer with minimal fluid.
- Late Proliferative Phase: A trilaminate appearance can be seen in this phase. It comprises the basal layer, middle functional layer, and the inner echogenic stripe at the centre.
- Secretory Phase: It is the thickest during this phase, and the stripe has fluid surrounding it. It looks uniformly echogenic in an ultrasound.
What Is the Normal Endometrial Thickness for Pregnancy to Occur?
The endometrial layer in itself is pretty thin. Towards the end of each menstrual cycle, when the upper layer has shed completely, the layer that remains is barely about 1 mm thick. As the next ovulation cycle begins, the cells start creating the new functional layer above it.
The thickness of the layer usually varies from person to person, but the normal range of endometrial thickness for conceiving is considered to be around 8 mm which needs to go up to around 15 mm to be able to hold the fertilized egg securely.
There are three phases that affect the thickness of the endometrial lining. These are –
- Early Proliferative/Menstrual Phase – This is when the endometrium is the thinnest. If seen on an ultrasound, the layers seem like a thin straight line.
- Late Proliferative – This phase comes after the end of the menstrual phase and goes on till the end of ovulation. That’s when the endometrium begins to thicken.
- Secretary – This phase lies between the time your body ovulates and begins another menstrual cycle. The endometrial layer is the thickest during this phase.
In some cases, the endometrium remains thin through all the phases described above and makes it difficult for women to conceive. Let’s take a look at what could cause a thin endometrial layer.
What Causes a Thin Endometrium?
A thin endometrium may be caused due to several reasons.
1. Poor Blood Flow
If the uterus does not receive an adequate supply of blood, it may have trouble creating an endometrium that is thick enough for conception. The lack of adequate blood flow may be due to a tilted uterus, uterine fibroids or even a sedentary lifestyle.
2. Estrogen-Related Issues
Reduced levels of estrogen could sometimes prevent the growth of cells, which in turn inhibits the thickening of the endometrium.
3. Improper Functioning of Progesterone
When the progesterone hormone does not function in the manner it needs to, the endometrium does not thicken.
4. Side-Effects of Fertility Drugs
5. Stressful Lifestyle
The absence of enough rest and sleep could result in stress, which can prevent the optimal growth of the endometrium.
6. Damaged Endometrial Lining
Having a thin endometrial lining can be because of a previous uterine infection, which damaged the uterine lining and caused the formation of scar tissue.
What Causes a Thick Endometrium?
Let’s look at the reasons for abnormal endometrial thickness below:
Having an ectopic pregnancy or a woman with less than five weeks of pregnancy may show signs of a thickening endometrium.
Cancer of the endometrium or the ovaries is one of the reasons for an increase in endometrial thickness.
3. Too Much Estrogen
Increased levels of estrogen could sometimes result in thickening of the endometrium.
4. Not Enough Progesterone
When there is too little progesterone, the uterus isn’t triggered to shed its lining (menstruation). The lining continues to get thick due to estrogen.
5. Hormonal Changes
Hormonal changes during the perimenopausal stage can sometimes cause endometrial thickening.
6. Other Disorders
Chronic disorders like obesity, diabetes, or PCOS may also be linked to thick endometrium.
Symptoms of Thick Endometrium
The following are the symptoms of thick endometrium:
- Heavy bleeding during periods
- Longer periods than usual
- Menstrual cycle shorter than 21 days or longer than 38 days
- Spotting between periods
How Can You Measure Endometrium Thickness?
An ultrasound or MRI can be used to measure the endometrium thickness. Talk to your gynaecologist what is the method for you based on your health conditions.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Endometrium Thickness in Pregnancy
Decreased endometrial thickness can hinder the pregnancy progress. Therefore, it must be treated with immediate effect. The treatment includes medication, supplements for better blood circulation, estrogen oral prescription or external injection of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin.
For those who wish to conceive, you’d be happy to know that there are ways to increase the thickness of the endometrium. Let’s find out how.
Ways to Increase Endometrial Thickness for Conceiving
There are a few ways in which you can improve the thickness of your endometrial layer and make it apt for conception. Here they are:
1. A Good Diet
Consuming a diet that is balanced and nutritious affects the levels of estrogen, maintains a balance of hormones, and boosts blood flow. All of these factors together assist in the growth of the ideal endometrial thickness for pregnancy.
Consume meals throughout the day to maintain healthy levels of insulin and cortisol. Include fibre in the diet as well as food items that have the Q10 coenzyme. This is a powerful antioxidant that reduces tissue-related stress and helps cultivate a thick endometrial layer.
Items like green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, eggs, carrots, and fish contain important vitamins like vitamin C and vitamin E along with the B-complex groups which are necessary for healthy blood circulation, so be sure to add these items in your diet. Cut down on sour food items and caffeine to improve your health.
2. Enough Rest
Good amounts of rest and sleep help bring a good balance of hormones which affect the thickening of the endometrium. An uninterrupted sleep of at least 7-8 hours is essential for the body to conduct its repair activities and undertake tissue growth optimally. Maintain a schedule of waking up and sleeping on time on a daily basis, and avoid staying up for long hours or late at night.
3. Regular Exercise
A natural way to boost blood circulation is by exercising. Adequate blood supply to the uterus also assists in the growth of the endometrium cells, thus increasing the thickness of the endometrial layer.
Intensive exercises aren’t necessary; spending about half an hour every day should suffice. Do varied forms of exercise to prevent your body from getting accustomed to one form of activity. Exercise helps induce a good sleep, thus assisting in the growth of the endometrial layer.
Acupuncture helps in restructuring the blood supply within the body, providing a boost to fertility. This ancient practice is also known to streamline delivery and provide relief to pregnant women. Studies have shown that reinforcing blood circulation around the kidneys can promote the formation of uterine endometrial blood vessels, which in turn can make the IVF process successful.
5. Keep Your Body Warm
Keeping your body warm increases the healthy blood flow, which boosts the uterine lining. You must consume warm foods and beverages to keep your body warm. Avoiding all “iced” drinks and minimising cold raw foods when trying to conceive.
6. Vitamin E
Consume food rich in Vitamin E, like avocados, nuts, and seeds, as these Vitamin E-rich foods can help thicken the endometrial lining.
When to See Doctor?
In the following cases, you must visit a doctor:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Spotting between periods
- Unusually heavy period flow
- Irregular or short blood flow
- Spotting or vaginal bleeding after menopause
1. How Much Endometrial Thickness Is Too Much?
Just as a thin endometrial layer is a problem, an endometrial layer that is too thick can also be an issue. Endometrial hyperplasia is the medical term to define this condition, which usually occurs due to excessive estrogen levels. This is where the layer gets thicker than even 15 mm.
2. Is It Possible to Get Pregnant With an Endometrial Thickness of 5 mm?
5 mm is too thin a layer to sustain a pregnancy. Ovulation induction and progesterone supplements might be required to help increase the thickness of the endometrium to support the pregnancy.
3. Is Endometrial Thickness a Sign of Early Pregnancy?
Yes, it can indicate early pregnancy, be it normal or abnormal (ectopic). The normal endometrial thickness in early pregnancy is about 8 to 15 mm.
The right endometrial thickness for conception is an essential component in the entire process of getting and staying pregnant. Adhering to healthy lifestyle choices and adopting proper treatment procedures to take care of the condition can help your body maintain a great environment for a baby.
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