What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis happens when the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus (the endometrium) grows outside your uterus. It is usually in your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining your pelvis.
Menstruation happens (usually each month) when the tissue that lines your uterus thickens, then breaks down. When it breaks down you bleed – this is your period/menstruation.
With endometriosis the tissue that grows outside your uterus has no way to break down and get out of your body. It becomes trapped. This causes inflammation (swelling) and pain. When endometriosis affects your ovaries, cysts (hard lumps) may also form inside your ovaries.
Endometriosis can be very painful – especially when you are menstruating. But there are treatments that can help you to manage and cope. There are online support groups (see below) where you can share your experiences so that you don’t feel alone.
Are you suffering from any of these symptoms?
painful periods and cramping
excessive bleeding (e.g. occasional heavy menstrual periods or bleeding between periods)
pain with bowel movements or urination
pain during or after sex
If you are, go to a doctor to find out if you have endometriosis. The doctor will do a pelvic examination and an ultrasound. They might need to do a ‘laparoscopy’ as well. A tiny cut is made and a fibre-optic instrument (laparoscope) inserted through the abdominal wall to check the organs in the abdomen.
If you are diagnosed with endometriosis the doctor might recommend hormonal replacement therapy. For example, you might be prescribed birth control pills or patches to help control the hormones that make the endometrial tissue build up each month.
Your doctor might recommend that you take pain medication to help ease the menstrual cramps. If you have severe pain, you may also benefit from surgery — however, endometriosis and pain may return.
If you are trying to get pregnant the doctor might advise you have surgery. This removes the endometriosis implants and may increase your chances of success.
Tips for coping with endometriosis
Warm baths and a heating pad or hot water bottle can help relax pelvic muscles, reducing cramping and pain.
Eat healthily and exercise.
Get eight hours of sleep a night.
Talk with family and close friends to form a support network.