Endometriosis (or commonly known as menstrual cramp) is something that most women will experience on a monthly basis. For ladies who are blessed to have a pain-free menstrual cycle, good for you! Nonetheless, whether you have this condition or not (men and woman alike), we should equip ourselves with the knowledge about it because, well, knowledge is power.
This medical condition which plagues most women out there can often be described with one word- pain. One will suffer from physical pain as well as emotional strains. This emotional strains can impact your life in many ways, such as isolating oneself from their friends and family due to unexpected moments of physical pain, or not being able to participate in physical activities. For some people, the pain can be so overwhelming that they’d even black out.
Since March is the month of Endometriosis Awareness Month, we’re all for learning more about it, and the legitimate way to deal with it instead of brushing it off when someone complains about their period cramps. There are actual things that you can do to alleviate your situation and if you don’t have it, how you may use this as a way to understand and help those with who have endometriosis (endo).
1. Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women, with an approximation of about 176 million women globally!
Endo is a painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows outside the uterus and on other areas in your body where it doesn’t belong. Often, it can be found on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, tissues that hold the uterus in place and other outer part of the uterus.
Always keep in mind that endo doesn’t define YOU nor the relationships you have and the life you live. This is ultimately the first and most important step in better managing endo.
2. In the U.S, it takes an average of 10 years from symptom onset to receive an accurate diagnosis.
Many women out there take their period cramps as just that… period cramps. And that no matter how painful they are, that they just need to “suck it up”. Personally for me, I suffer from something called PCOS, and I didn’t know I had it until I needed to do a check up because of bad cramps. And it turns out, many of my friends actually have PCOS.
The number one symptom of endo is pain, particularly in the pelvic area that coincides with menstruation or intercourse. The nature of the pain is also largely subjective, which makes it difficult to properly diagnose. Some people don’t even realise they have endo until they try to conceive but have difficulties with it.
You know your body best. If you’re experiencing what you feel is abnormal pelvic pain, you need to see your doctor. A simple examination can indicate high suspicion of endo and an ultrasound might be able to identify cysts. But the best way to find out is through a laparoscopy.
3. If you have a close relative with endo, you are 5-7 times more likely to have it yourself.
Though we may not know the specific cause of endo, we do know there may be a genetic component. Hence, if you do know someone with endo, and you have horrific and abnormal pelvic pains, you should reaaally get a diagnosis as soon as possible.
Even if you’re not experience extreme symptoms but you have a relative with endo, do consult your doctor so at least you can start looking after yourself sooner than later. And while you can’t ‘prevent’ endo, you can reduce your chances of developing it by lowering the levels of estrogen in your body by:
- Using hormonal birth control (pills, patches, rings with lower doses of estrogen. And just to add, I’m personally on the pill to help with my PCOS, but what I see in common is that if you say you’re on the pill or if someone finds out, most common response is “are you sexually active?”. It’s about time we push that old school mind-set. There are many reason as to why a person is on the pill and it’s not only for people who are sexually active. Plus, if you are sexually active, I do hope you’re using more than just the pills. Yknow. Because of STD.
- Avoiding large amounts of alcohol and/or caffeine
4. Women with endo have a higher risk of early pregnancy complications.
According to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, women with endo had a 76% chance of having a miscarriage and nearly 3 times at rick of ectopic pregnancy. Many women with endo also struggle with trying to get pregnant, with many suffering from miscarriages, IVF transfers, IVF egg retrievals and more.
Dr. Allison Rodgers of the Fertility Centres of Illinois stated that for patients going through IVF, patients do just as well with an endo diagnosis as those with other diagnoses. In her experience, most patients do go on to have healthy, successful pregnancies. Basically… don’t let the stats scare you too much.
5. There is no known cause/cure for endo.
This is probably the saddest fact as women suffering with this crippling pain and infertility will have to live most of their lives with endo. But it doesn’t have to stop you from living your life or defining you.
Though there may be no cure, women suffering from endo can still live perfectly normal lives and have healthy, successful pregnancies. The key is to find out how best to manage your pain and/or infertility.
The treatment will depend on how severe your symptoms are and whether you plan to get pregnant. If you only want to deal with the pain, hormone therapy (via birth control or an intrauterine device) is one way to go. However, that can impede getting pregnant, and in that case, infertility treatments such as IVFs and/or having a laparoscopy can help.
Header image source from here.