Every month, humans all over the world experience different symptoms during their menstrual cycle. From abdominal and lower back pain, to headaches, bloating, and breakouts, it’s safe to say having a period can be uncomfortable at times. Anyone that has to deal with PMS can vouch for that. But are you experiencing all these pains to the point where you can’t get out of bed, have an abnormally heavy period, and everything hurts way more than it should? These severe pains might be a sign of endometriosis, and we’ve decided to shed some light on this for the sake of all menstruators!
What is endometriosis meaning for those that have it?
Endometriosis happens when the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. It's when endometrial tissue (which forms the lining of your uterus), grows in areas of your body that isn’t supposed to (aka the ovaries, fallopian tubes, outside the uterus, cervix, bowel, bladder, vagina, or rectum). See our Anatomy 101 if you’re not too sure about human biology.
Endometriosis can be very painful and could lead to infertility, surgery, and an unbearable period experience. Although it can lead to fertility issues, many with endometriosis still carry and give birth to a child without issues.
According to the Endometriosis Foundation of America, roughly 176 million menstruating humans are impacted by endometriosis (or “endo” for short). That’s the equivalent of 1 in 10 menstruating people so the chances are high that you know someone who’s affected. Unfortunately endometriosis pain is often misdiagnosed for other things like irritable bowel syndrome, allergies, ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease, or a thyroid disorder. Shouldn’t there be more awareness on this issue? WE THINK YES, which is why we’re talking about it now.
What are the signs of endometriosis?
Endometriosis, especially if undiagnosed, can interfere with many people’s daily activities because of the excruciating pain they’re experiencing.
Here are a few symptoms to look out for:
- Pelvic pain
- Painful sexual intercourse and cramping
- Pain during bowel movements or urination
- Ovarian cysts
- Pain during pelvic examinations
- Bloody urine (during menstruation)
- Diarrhea or constipation
*keep in mind that these symptoms can happen to people without endometriosis, but those who have it experience it at a higher level.
If any or all these symptoms apply to you and you KNOW something is not right, go and see your gynaecologist straight away. Listening to your body is always the answer.
How can you treat endometriosis?
The truth of the matter is, there is no real cure for endometriosis, but there ARE ways to ease the pain. Doctors usually recommend approaching a more “natural” way to treat it and opting for surgery as a last resort (it can be reeaaaallly expensive and not always the right solution).
Look at your diet. Are you eating healthily? Eliminating foods in your diet that cause inflammation such as dairy, caffeine, refined sugar, and carbohydrates can help your symptoms. A big no-no are high-estrogen foods or drinks such as alcohol and soy. Yep, alcohol raises your estrogen levels which can worsen your cramps or endometriosis, and soy products can upset the hormone balance. Go for anti-inflammatory foods such as leafy greens, bok choy, celery, walnuts, and so many other yummy foods!
Hormone therapy has also been useful when treating endometriosis because it controls the hormones and can make menstruation lighter or shorter. Although hormone treatment isn’t a permanent fix, it can slow the endometrial tissue growth and prevent new implants from happening!
Other treatments include conservative surgery, which is when they remove as much tissue as possible while preserving your uterus and ovaries, or a hysterectomy, which is when they remove the uterus, cervix, and ovaries. We know this might sound scary, so it’s best to talk to your doctor about all of this first before deciding what’s best for you! It’s also important to keep in mind that even with all the treatments, your symptoms could return.
P.S. yes this is a serious condition that needs more focus but it is treatable and there are lots of helpful ways! So hang in there :)
Can you use a menstrual cup if you have endometriosis?
YES! Depending on how heavy your flow is, you might have to empty your cup more often, but it is completely safe to use a period cup if you suffer from endometriosis. Of course, we always recommend consulting your doctor first!
Avoiding the toxic chemicals in menstrual pads and tampons will be highly beneficial for your body (for the obvious reasons), and using a medical-grade silicone cup is a much safer alternative for your vagina.
If you’re still weighing up your menstrual product choices, check out our article ‘Game on: Menstrual Cups vs. Tampons’.