Did you know that it’s endometriosis awareness month? Do you know what endometriosis even is? Endometriosis, also referred to as “endo”, is a women’s health issue that happens when the lining of the uterus (womb) grows outside of the uterus. It can cause all kinds of pain:
Pain with periods
Pain with sex
The pain that comes from infertility or difficulty getting pregnant
Or just plain pain. All over. All the time.
It can be extreme, or it can be mild, and can include other symptoms like digestive problems and heavy and/or irregular cycles. Other conditions have also been correlated with endo such as depression and anxiety. But many women don’t even know that they have it. It’s estimated that about 11% of women in the US (more than 6 ½ million women) have endometriosis, though there is a large percentage of those women who remain undiagnosed, even after visiting multiple health care providers. In fact, the length of time it takes a woman from onset of her symptoms to get a diagnosis is upwards of 9 years! There is a wide array of reasons for this:
Symptoms can often be uncomfortable to discuss
Endo is under-recognized, and health care providers aren’t asking about endometriosis symptoms
Symptoms are often confused with other disorders
There are currently no straightforward tests or screenings to diagnose it
Period pain is often treated as “normal”
The good news is that there are ways to manage the condition. It’s important to find a provider that is knowledgeable in the condition and one that you feel comfortable talking to, because you need to feel comfortable describing your symptoms in detail (we promise, it’s not TMI, we need to know!), and make sure they take you seriously. Keep looking until you find the right provider for you. Depending on the type of provider you’re most comfortable with, treatments may vary. Options include hormonal birth control and/or other forms of hormone therapy, diet, exercise, lifestyle and stress management, various medications to help with the symptoms, supplements and, in extreme cases, surgery to diagnose the condition and to remove the endometriosis lesions.
Knowledge is power, so educate yourself if you think you may have or have been diagnosed with endometriosis. We are, of course, always here as resources for you if you’re looking for more information or are needing help finding a health care provider to assist you. Some other resources include the Endometriosis Association (https://endometriosisassn.org), the Endometriosis Research Center (https://www.endocenter.org), or the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG, https://www.acog.org).