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.
Not all women or folks with an endometriosis diagnosis will experience their symptoms the same way. The ones often reported include but are not limited to:
- Pain in the pelvis or pelvic cavity (especially worse during periods)
- Pain when urinating and passing stool
- Severe bloating and cramps
- Pain during sex
- Pain with any vaginal penetration including pelvic screening
- Pain in the lower stomach
- Pain in the lower back
- Constipation and/or diarrhea
- Severe fatigue
- Heavy and/or irregular menstruation
- Difficulty getting and maintaining a pregnancy
Endometriosis Screening and Diagnosis
The reporting of a combination of symptoms to a medical doctor and the findings of a physical examination can lead to a suspicion of endometriosis. The only way to acquire a positive diagnosis is through laparoscopy surgery performed under general anesthesia.
With Laparoscopy Surgery, your surgical team will make a small cut or hole close to the belly button used to fill and expand the belly for a better view. A laparoscope (a video camera in a thin tube) is then inserted to help the medical team look around and take pictures of possible scarring, endometrial tissue builds up outside on uterus, bladder, pelvic floor and walls, fallopian tube, and ovaries.
The 4 Categories of Endometriosis
An endometriosis diagnosis after confirmation is usually classified under 4 categories based on severity, location of abnormal endometrial growth, and resulting scar tissues. The severity of endometriosis symptoms is not related to the stage of diagnosis.
- Stage 1 Minimal
- Stage 2 Mild
- Stage 3 Moderate
- Stage 4 Severe
During a surgical procedure the endometrial tissue outside the uterus can be removed. This is the route often taken for treatment as part of the laparoscopic procedures and is recommended for those whose pregnancy and conception are affected by endometriosis. Medication management is another option of treatment for endometriosis and a discussion about the best option for treatment should be discussed with you by a specialist.
At your next appointment…
You should always feel empowered to discuss best treatment options with your womb/women’s health specialist. Consult with one of Kiira’s expert clinicians at your next appointment. Find the courage to discuss symptoms and release period stigma with our multicultural and LGBTQ+ aware medical practitioner. Make your healthcare a collaborative process!
Written By Nurse Indongesit Obeya
Edited by Reem Abdalla