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Endometriosis, Explained

Endometriosis symptoms include painful menstruation and often, irregular bleeding. What else you need to know about this chronic condition.

 

So what should you know about endometriosis?

Endometriosis sounds like something out of a Sci-Fi movie, except it’s not. Instead, it’s a disorder where tissue that is similar to 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 (your period). In fact, this unwanted tissue can affect your fallopian tubes, intestines, and ovaries, and while nobody can tell us what really causes endometriosis, people who have it experience great disruption in their lives, thanks to a host of annoying and painful symptoms. 

Sex can be painful

People with endometriosis often complain of pain during sexual intercourse. Unfortunately, endo symptoms aren’t limited to pain during sex: you can also bloat (like, six-months-pregnant bloat), suffer from nausea and constipation, experience dysmenorrheal (severe period pain), as well as menorrhagia (heavy menstruation: more on that here)

Diagnosing endometriosis can be a challenge 

While your gynaecologist might suspect you have endo, thanks to your symptoms correlating with those of the disease, it can be difficult to get a diagnosis. Why? It’s best to have a laparoscopy done, since this is the only medical procedure that can definitively confirm whether or not you do have endometriosis. Since it isn’t always a financially viable option, it can mean that people often live with this, undiagnosed.

You can experience irregular bleeding and heavy periods

It can be easy to dismiss period pain and heavy menstruation. After all, people with uteruses can sometimes experience a lifetime of being gaslit by medical professionals. However, this makes it more urgent than ever to be aware of your body’s normal menstrual cycle, and what that ‘normal’ looks like for you. Keep a period diary if you can, and take note of when 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.  

It can spread to other parts of your body

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. 

You can fall pregnant with endometriosis

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 period (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, causing your little bean to be sprung), the usual pain that is associated with different phases of your menstrual cycle can cease for the nine months of the gestation period.

You will need a support system

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, or tend to forget to ask all the questions that you needed to, consider taking along a buddy 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 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 nearest healthcare professional. 

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Frequently Asked Question: Periods

Can I have sex when I'm on my period?

Yes you can. In rare instances, you can still get pregnant. You should also bear in mind that you can still catch a sexually transmitted disease when on your period

Will I smell when I’m on my period?

You might notice a slight odour when you're on your period. Tampons can help with this because they're worn inside your body. If you prefer to use pads, make sure to change them regularly if you notice a strong odour.

How will the contraceptive pill affect my periods?

Some brands of contraceptive pills can reduce your flow or shorten the length of your period. Your doctor or nurse will discuss this with you during your consultation.

My periods are really heavy, which products should I use?

You’ve got a few options available. Lil-lets Super Plus tampons have the highest absorbency in our range and are great for heavy periods. If you prefer to use an applicator tampon, our super tampons are a really good choice for medium to heavy flow. If you use pads, we suggest using our Night Maxi Pad, which is the highest absorbency pad within our range

What can I do to relieve my period pain?

Although you may not feel like doing it at the time, stretching or gentle exercise will ease this discomfort. Healthy eating is also known to help relieve any period pain. Alternatively, treat yourself to a relaxing bath or cuddle up on the sofa with a hot water bottle. If none of these help, your local pharmacy can give you guidance on suitable pain relief.

How long does a period last?

This can vary from 2 to 5 days and could be up to 10.

Is it okay to have a bath or shower when I have my period?

Yes, it's important to keep yourself clean during your period and hot water can help soothe cramps too!

What do you find is the most effective way to deal with menstrual cramps?

Menstrual cramps vary from menstruator to menstruator. For some, period cramps are little to no pain, whereas for others, it can be a truly excruciating experience. Thus dealing with period cramps can vary. We recommend exploring to opt for home treatments instead of relying heavily on over-the-counter medicine. These two options can assist with cramps:

• Getting regular exercise can help with blood flow and may reduce cramping.
• Put a heating pad or a hot water bottle on your belly, or taking a warm bath. The heat improves blood flow and may ease the pain.

However, if pain does persist, it is recommended to chat to your doctor or gynae

Can I wash my hair during my period?

You totally can! We've often been fed a lot of misinformation. That's not the case - you can take care of yourself (including washing your hair, why not throw in a face mask?), exercise if you're up to it, be around your loved ones and work as normal. Besides the pain and discomfort which accompanies some people's periods, you can continue on as normal.

Is it okay to swim when you're on your period?

Swimming during your period isn't a problem. However, you will want to use a tampon when swimming so you don't bleed on your swimsuit. Pads won't work and will just fill with water. The tampon won't fall out if it is inserted correctly. Go and make a splash!

Have more questions on periods?

Got a question you’ve been too embarrassed to ask? Wondering if what you are experiencing every month is normal?

Join our Lil-Lets Talk community for empowering conversations for people with periods.

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