It’s symptoms include painful menstruation and irregular bleeding, but what else do you need to know about this chronic condition?
Endometriosis sounds like something out of a Sci-Fi movie, except it’s not and actually, around 1 in 10 women in the UK suffer from it. It’s a disorder where tissue like the kind that lines your uterus grows outside of your uterus. And yes, to answer your question, it can mimic the same thickening and shedding patterns as the normal endometrial lining. In fact, this unwanted tissue can affect your fallopian tubes, intestines and ovaries, and while nobody can tell us what really causes endo, people who have it experience great disruption in their lives, thanks to a host of annoying and painful symptoms.
People with endometriosis often complain of pain during sexual intercourse. Unfortunately, endometriosis symptoms aren’t limited to pain during sex: you can also bloat (like, six-months-pregnant bloat), suffer from nausea and constipation, experience dysmenorrhea (painful periods) as well as menorrhagia (heavy bleeding - more on that here).
It can be easy to dismiss painful periods and heavy bleeding. After all, people with endo can sometimes experience a lifetime of being gaslit by medical professionals. However, this makes it more important than ever to be aware of your body’s normal menstrual cycle, and of course, what ‘normal’ means for you. Keep a period diary if you can, and take note of when endometriosis symptoms such as headaches, severe period pain and bleeding are at their worst. Pain is not uncommon – but it’s not normal, either, and while endometriosis isn’t curable, it is a treatable condition, and you needn’t be living in permanent discomfort.
While your gynaecologist might suspect you have endo, thanks to symptoms correlating with those of the disease, it can be difficult to get a diagnosis. Why? Because it’s best to have a laparoscopy done since this is the only medical procedure that can definitively confirm whether you do have endometriosis.
Endometriosis is not limited to your reproductive organs. In fact, the tissue can form around other organs inside your abdominal cavity, such as your intestines and stomach. This is why pain caused by endometriosis can occur everywhere from your pelvis and rectum to your lower back and vagina.
But it might be a little more complicated. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, endometriosis can sometimes affect your chances of conceiving, since it can form scar tissue around your reproductive organs. If children are part of your life plan, it’s worth chatting to your doctor or specialist about your fertility, and what steps you might need to take to ensure that you are able to conceive during your fertile phases (and carry to term). On the other hand, pregnancy can also ease endo symptoms. Because your body doesn’t ovulate during pregnancy (since an ovum has already been fertilised, creating your little one), the usual pain that is associated with different phases of your menstrual cycle can cease for the nine months of gestation.
It can be difficult to speak to your loved ones when you’re living with chronic or debilitating pain but making the people around you aware of what you’re going through is an important step in building your support system. If you find going to the doctor upsetting or nerve wracking and tend to forget to ask all the questions that you needed to, consider taking along an ally to your doctor’s appointments. They can be there for moral support, prompt you to list the symptoms of endometriosis that you may have experienced (and discussed in depth on the group chat), and write down any information that you may be unable to digest in the moment.
If you experience signs of endometriosis and suspect that you might have it, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor or gynaecologist.
We've put together a selection of your top intimate hygiene-related questions and their answers. First answer: yes, your vulva is normal... We know we've all wondered before!Find out more