(a) “Just really bad period pains”
(b) “An STI, like Chlamydia or something”
(c) An admittedly pretty confusing gynaecological condition that is nevertheless well worth trying to understand.
If you thought the answer might be (a) or (b), don’t worry, you’re not alone: I have heard both of those things before. You should, however, probably read on.
Since endometriosis affects 10% of women worldwide (176 million people, if you’re counting) I’d chance it and say this condition will affect at least one person you know. When you consider the trans, non-binary and even male endo warriors: the numbers grow. I’d say that makes this blog (or any other source on the topic) worth a quick scan.
Okay, cards on the table, I may have fibbed a little with the title of this section because I won’t be telling you exactly what endo is (my wonderful doctor friend will explain that all properly in another post). But what I can tell you is what I have picked up over the years.
Endometriosis is a condition where endometriotic tissue (very similar to the cells forming the uterine/womb lining) is located elsewhere in the body: often in areas such as the ovaries, pelvis and fallopian tubes, but also more uncommonly in areas such as the bladder, lungs and rectum.
Now, the body is a very clever thing for the most part. The cells in the uterine lining build up and break down every month(ish). Then these nasty beasties make their way out of the vagina in the form of period blood and never bother you again. This well-oiled machine works because the uterus is conveniently located above the vagina (ooh, magic body) and therefore provides a nice little exit path for said nasty beasties.
Are we seeing the issue for the nasty beasties with no such convenient exit? Not so ideal. When the monthly hormonal surges kick in, the endometriosis around the body reacts similarly by building up, breaking down and bleeding. However, with no exit path, these bleeds fester, causing inflammation, the creation of scar tissue and adhesions, tenderness, pain and many other such niceties.
Because those symptoms didn’t quite sound like enough of a picnic, other pleasantries often kick in later on, such as fatigue, painful intercourse, mood changes and the endo “i-word” – infertility.
Disclaimer 1: we can’t cure endo (yet) but we can sure as hell do things to help it along the way. These things include surgeries, hormonal medicine, dietary/lifestyle changes and bucket loads of self-care.
Disclaimer 2: we still don’t know what causes endometriosis. There are some suggestions of lifestyle factors that may increase your likeliness of getting endo but, as far as I’m aware, these aren’t totally proven yet.
Sounding pretty grim huh? I won’t lie: I could do without it. But hopefully through this blog I can share some experiences, tips and tricks and just encourage the lovely endo community (and beyond) to keep powering on.