10% of women worldwide have endometriosis – that’s 176 million.
Endometriosis occurs when tissue that acts a lot like the lining of your uterus-called endometrium-starts growing outside of your uterus, where it doesn’t belong.
This condition can cause severe pain and inflammation each month. If you believe you may have endometriosis, it is important to start a conversation with your GP or healthcare provider.
I first learned about endo when entering high school. At the time, not a lot of information was accessible. I was left undiagnosed for over nine years because even doctors had a lack of knowledge regarding it. The examples I will be providing are personal accounts of my journey with endometriosis. Everyone’s story will be a little different though.
Endometriosis pain is more than just cramps
Periods are painful, and one of the symptoms everyone knows women get during their period is cramps. This makes many women believe the pain they are experiencing is just “normal”. However, a lot of women don’t realise what the difference is between a normal level of cramps and endometriosis.
Endo can also cause severe lower back, pelvic, and hip pain. Personally, my symptoms have never been consistent. For instance, one month the entire week of my period I had to be on a strict diet because I had nausea from the pain. The next month I could eat anything I wanted, but had to deal with constipation.
Endometriosis can take time
On average, it takes seven years to be ‘diagnosed’ with this condition. At first, I was prescribed high strength painkillers to help but they didn’t do anything. I was eventually written a prescription for birth control. Birth control is the preferred method doctors choose to treat endometriosis. However, the only way to officially diagnose endometriosis is through a laparoscopy. More often than not, women are not surgically diagnosed with endometriosis and instead are only diagnosed based on symptoms. There is no known cure for it so doctors focus on treating symptoms.
Doctors Are Still Learning
Educate yourself about endometriosis as best you can and learn from other’s experiences. Reading other’s stories has empowered me by showing that other women are experiencing symptoms just like mine.
By educating yourself you can have a conversation with your doctor and know the right questions to ask. Just because you may not have one symptom, or your symptoms are not as bad as someone else, doesn’t lessen the fact that you might have it.
Symptoms can sometimes seem to vary from woman to woman, so it is important to know the most common symptoms of endometriosis. The most common symptoms are referred to as “The three P’s”:
- Painful periods
- Pelvic pain in between periods
- Pain having sex
If you have any of these symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider.
Mentally and physically exhausting
Another huge symptom that is often not talked about is fatigue. Endometriosis can suck the energy out of you. Some friends and family may never be able to understand what you are going through. I remember being envious of my friends who talked about their periods being a simple annoyance. For a long time in high school, I felt that no other girl was going through what I was.
Look into advocates or groups that can support you. You are never alone. Julianne Hough says: “It is all about starting this conversation. I want to be a voice and a person who can help women.”
Never stop fighting for yourself though or for a definite answer. Also remember that your battle with endometriosis is not to find a cure, you want to be seeking treatment options available.
Your only battle is to feel better and find options that benefit you and your personal journey.
Endometriosis has an impact on everything
Some people will never understand what you are going through. As stated above this can affect you mentally. But people, including newly diagnosed patients, do not understand the affects endometriosis can have on life in general. There may be times when nothing you do to help your endometriosis works. The cramps are just too painful or you are getting sick for example. This could stop you from going to work or school, and to be social. As someone with endometriosis, sometimes I literally cannot walk from pain. If you give in one day, or even a whole week, it is okay.
“So many women are unhappy. They lose work time, productivity and their jobs because of this disease,” said Dr. Tamer Seckin, a renowned New York City–based gynecologist and endometriosis surgeon.
To this day, I cannot exercise when I am on my period because it increases all my symptoms. Be conscious of the amount of pain you are experiencing. Another important factor to consider is flow. If your period’s flow is long and heavy, along with pain, this may be another symptom. When your period is inhibiting you from living your life because of pain management or literal sickness, then it is time to consult your doctor.
Endometriosis and Infertility
Endometriosis Foundation of America says: “Sadly, endo patients have a low chance of being able to become pregnant because of the science behind it.”
These are a few reasons why it affects fertility in women. If you are having problems becoming pregnant, speak with your local health care provider about your own case and never disregard the effect this can have on your mental health.
Endometriosis can be a long, and painful journey, not a condition to ignore. If you are experiencing severe cramps, consult a doctor or open up to a parent or friend. You are never alone, and I am here battling with you too.
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Author: Michelle Saavedra
Michelle is a journalism graduate, who has since been working in social media. In her spare time, she can be found riding horses or motorcycles, playing video games, or experimenting with makeup. Her world revolves around her pug, cats, and horses.