Getting our period means many things for women. Some people can just plug in a tampon and blissfully ignore it until it’s time to get changed. But there are some who have to deal with debilitating pain that, more often than not, no one seems to understand.
Endometriosis is when uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus. Sometimes they can be found in the abdomen, the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and nearby organs and tissues surrounding the uterus. In one extreme case, they were found as far as the lungs. During the menstrual cycle, these tissues function as they should: they build up, then later shed blood. This causes inflammation and internal bleeding because the resulting blood doesn’t leave the body through the vagina as normal. This results in varying amounts of pain and some of it can be unbearable.
It is estimated that 10% of women all over the world have endometriosis. Dysmenorrhea is something that most women with periods are familiar with, but when you have endometriosis, yours may feel severe. Other symptoms include heavy bleeding during periods, pelvic pain, painful urination and bowel movements, pain during sex, frequent yeast infections, and even infertility.
There is no known one cause of endometriosis, but there are some conditions that may put someone more at risk of developing it: early menstruation, high estrogen levels, never giving birth, immediate relatives with endometriosis, and uterine abnormalities. Sometimes, endometriosis symptoms disappear after pregnancy, and should disappear completely after menopause.
For many women with endometriosis, it is a life of pain. Actor Lena Dunham has been very open about the disease’s impact on her life. She had described her crippling pain carried with a sense of shame. It is this same shame that keeps women, hollywood star or not, from seeking out help when there seems to be something wrong during our periods. We’ve all been conditioned to believe that period pains and discomfort are fine, normal. Anything over that is just that: a little more this month. It’s so easy to be diagnosed as a drama queen who can’t handle a little monthly womanly pain.
Diagnosing endometriosis takes some time — some women report that it took many years of multiple doctor visits before finally getting diagnosed. It requires several procedures like pelvic exams, ultrasounds, and a laparoscopy to get a definitive diagnosis. Because endometriosis has varying degrees of pain, as well as several shared symptoms with other diseases. Removal of delinquent tissue can be done via surgery, but this doesn’t mean that endometrial tissue won’t continue to grow in inappropriate places.
There’s a stigma surrounding periods that we prefer not to talk about. For some, periods are such a taboo that they’d simply rather not work it into conversations. Most of the time, women are just shamed for their periods: blood and everything else associated with the menstrual cycle. It is because of this that some women aren’t taken seriously even when they are literally crying in pain.
Do you or someone you know suffer from endometriosis? Don’t suffer in silence! We’d like to hear your experiences. Tag @iamclaireph on Facebook or Instagram.