Written By Nurse Indongesit Obeya
Edited by Reem Abdalla
Have you ever wondered if your period symptoms are really normal?
This March we are encouraged to stand in solidarity for Endometriosis Awareness Month, highlighting the experience of every one in 10 women or people with uteruses who suffer from this condition.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is the non-cancerous abnormal growth or presence of tissue normally found in the uterus on surrounding organs including the ovaries, fallopian tubes, outside walls of the uterus, pelvic and abdominal cavity. Endometrial tissue is rarely found on other vital organs. Like the uterus lining, endometrial tissue built up outside the uterus will also shed every month. The exact cause of endometriosis is not yet known.
Endometriosis can result in abnormally painful cramps that are typically worse than usual period discomfort. Due to the intensity of endometriosis-related pain, the experiences of people who menstruate are often undermined, diminished or ignored. They can be told their pain is exaggerated, made up, or form of attention-seeking behavior.
Are you experiencing period stigma?
When I complained about my severe painful period-related symptoms, I was constantly told to bear with it because the women in my family have been strong enough to do the same. Other young women and folks who menstruate share the feeling that they lacked support or understanding of the unique ways our bodies experience period discomfort. Young people can feel isolated if there is no one close to them who can openly share the experience of endometriosis-related symptoms. For cultural reasons, conversations around menstruation are considered taboo or unmentionable. The channels for genuine discussion within or outside the family are blocked. My mother had a conservative upbringing and made it clear she was not to be bothered with trivial things like period pain.
Some people are often ashamed to discuss their symptoms with healthcare providers. Some are not aware that there is a diagnosis associated with their experience, which could help empower them to speak up.