Are you one of the 10% of women who ‘that time of the month’ doesn’t just mean throwing in a pack of tampons at Foodland?
Do you suffer from periods that seriously affect your ability to enjoy life?
Do you also experience…
:: Period (or ovulation) discomfort that causes you to miss work, study or social activities, that isn’t controlled by over the counter medications and that often makes you want to stay in bed with a hot water bottle and watch daytime TV?
:: Pain during or after sex (or even pain when inserting a tampon)?
:: Bladder or bowel pain or problems such as frequency, constipation, diarrhoea or bloating?
:: Heavy or irregular menstrual bleeding?
:: Bleeding for longer than is normal for everyone you know?
:: Tiredness or a lack of energy, especially around the time of your period that can’t be explained by a few late nights and no longer being 21?
If you have answered yes to any of these, there is a chance you could have endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a condition where the tissue that lines the uterus (the endometrium) grows outside of it. This frustratingly common condition affects approximately one in ten women worldwide. Symptoms differ between women, although approximately 75% of sufferers experience one or more of the symptoms listed above (and because Mother Nature thought a woman’s life wasn’t already complicated enough, these symptoms can also change over time).
The other 25% of women with endometriosis are relatively symptomless and may only discover that they have this condition when they have difficulty becoming pregnant. Endometriosis can damage and block fallopian tubes (where the eggs and sperm are meant to meet) and produce toxic chemicals, which may interfere with healthy egg and embryo development.
Up to a third of women with endometriosis may experience trouble with fertility. Australian women are now starting their families much later in life than previous generations, and so endometriosis has more of a chance to take hold and cause infertility. Endometriosis can be seen in teenagers as young as thirteen, so severe period pain should always be taken seriously.
A laparoscopy (keyhole surgery) is the only way to truly diagnose endometriosis and the earlier a diagnosis is made and treatment is commenced, the less severe the symptoms may be. Treatment can include:
:: Lifestyle changes, such as dietary modification, gentle activity and stress management
:: Medication (for example, anti inflammatory and hormone therapy including the pill)
:: Surgery to remove more severe and persistent areas of endometriosis
It probably isn’t simply that your girlfriends have a higher pain tolerance than you; there could be a genuine problem that needs to be dealt with. If you think you may have endometriosis, or if you are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with that time of the month, then it’s worth seeking help.
Written by Dr Sally Reid
Originally appeared on Adelady November 13, 2015
:: Gynaecologist, Fertility Specialist, Laparoscopic Surgeon
Sally completed her medical degree at the University of Adelaide in 2003 and has trained in obstetrics and gynaecology in both Ireland and Australia. Dr Reid is a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and is committed to providing high quality, compassionate care for her patients. Sally believes that great food, exercise, mindfulness and laughter offer the best medicine. When lifestyle changes and simple treatments aren’t enough, she is also able to offer continuity of care for couples requiring more advanced infertility treatments such as IVF, through Fertility SA.
When she isn’t practising medicine, Sally enjoys time with her husband Steven and two small children, Chloe and Austin. Passions include dancing in her pyjamas to Florence, jumping waves at the beach all year round and enjoying everything that Adelaide has to offer.