“Every girl gets cramps, just take some Tylenol.”

“Come on, it’s not that bad.”

I was 12 years old when I got my first period. I remember being told “you’ll have cramps, but they get better with age.” But as I grew up, nothing was changing. In fact, I was waking up in the middle of the night screaming, crying, struggling to breathe because it hurt to move at all. My cramps felt like I was being stabbed, but the pain lingered…for hours. I did what I was told: took medicine, exercised, took hot baths, and used a heating pad. I was suffering in school, trying not to cry in class out of fear of people discovering I was on my period. My family and my friends alike were sick of hearing about it. Everyone offered their opinions telling me that I was overreacting and that it’s not that bad. I just assumed that everyone’s time of the month was like this, but I was so wrong. Years later, my friends can still recall how treacherous my life became once a month, politely saying “it was like you were dying” which is what it felt like.

As time passed, my mother realized that maybe I was having more problems with cramping than others. She knew I wasn’t exaggerating. She took me to an OBGYN where I was diagnosed with dysmenorrhea, also known as menstrual cramps. My doctor told me that I was just suffering from a worse case. I was put on a birth control that would make it easier during my time of the month. This has to work, right? Wrong. I was still suffering when I was having my period. So I went back to my doctor and we spoke about going to a daily oral contraceptive that was continual. I looked at him like he was a saint. No period? I was in. I definitely grilled my doctor about fertility issues, hormonal changes, etc, but I was reassured and went on my merry way. Until I was back years later with a myriad of other problems involving pain. My doctor finally looked at me and said “There is a possibility that this is endometriosis.” Thoughts were racing through my head. A possibility of having a successful pregnancy just dramatically reduced. My ability to maintain a normal intimate life with my future husband was going to be a problem.

I decided to learn more. I ordered books online, spoke to people in my life that I knew suffered from the same diagnosis, and even joined a Facebook group where people with this diagnosis could get together and share their pain, fears, successes, and surgeries.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is when the uterine tissue (uterine lining) is present on other organs. Normally endometriosis is found within your lower abdominal region, including your pelvic floor (the muscles in and around your pelvis that are used when going to the bathroom, having intercourse, carrying a baby, having your period, holding in your pee, etc), but it is possible for uterine tissue to be found all of your body.

Endometriosis symptoms include:

  • Heavy or longer periods

  • Painful periods

  • Lingering pain between periods

  • Painful bowel movements

  • Painful intercourse

  • Fatigue

  • Diarrhea

  • Pelvic pain

  • Back aches

  • Possible infertility issues

The reason there are infertility issues with women who have endometriosis is because there can be scarring in your fallopian tubes which could prevent egg and sperm from meeting or there can be an issue with the zygote implanting in the lining of the uterus. Many women don’t even know they have endometriosis until they have trouble conceiving.

What causes endometriosis?

There is no definite answer as to what causes endometriosis because there are quite a few possible reasons. One theory is that tissue from the uterus and blood flow out through the fallopian tube and into your abdominal cavity in a process that is called retrograde menstruation.

Another theory is that cells from within the uterus travel through the lymphatic system or blood vessels to other parts of the body that explains the growth in many different areas.

If you are not diagnosed with endometriosis and you have a cesarean section, some of the cells from your uterus can attach to the abdominal scar tissue which could lead to endometriosis within the scar tissue.

What does endometriosis look like and how can I find out if I have it?

The only way to determine whether or not you have endometriosis is by have a laparoscopic surgery. It can not be seen through an ultrasound and can not be determined solely off of symptoms.

The laparoscopic surgery would help with determining a diagnosis and if you do indeed have endometriosis, the surgeon would either cut out or burn out the endometriosis. The current standard is to cut out because burning it out just leads to more scar tissue to form with endometriosis on it.

Endometriosis can come in the form of little black, red, or white spots. Small, but incredibly painful.

Treatment

There is no cure for now so your treatment options are to have the laparoscopy done. Getting the laparoscopy done does not mean the endometriosis will not come back; in most cases, it does come back. But more treatments include birth control to help with cramping, hormone therapy, pelvic floor therapy, and some women will decide on a hysterectomy.

One in ten women suffer from endometriosis which means 176 million women worldwide.

Having endometriosis means going through life with a smile on your face to mask the extreme pain and discomfort you suffer daily. We are expected to live and behave like everyone else even with chronic pain.

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about endometriosis. Contact your doctors for any questions and concerns.

RELATED READ: Breaking Down The Different Types Of Female Birth Control

Caroline C.
FFL Cabinet Member
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