In honor of Endometriosis Awareness Month, I felt the importance of highlighting what it is.
Endometriosis: the most missed gynecologic disorder.
The lining of the uterus is called an endometrium and it’s meant to stay on the inside of your uterus. With endometriosis, there is endometrial tissue growth on the outside of the uterus—we call these lesions or endometriomas. This growth can happen on the ovaries, fallopian tubes and/or the bowels or other organs.
These lesions can be a heavy burden for women. They thicken and bleed during your period simply by irritating the healthy tissue they’re attached to/around because it’s trapped. An average of one in 10 women has endometriosis. Many go through three or four providers before a diagnosis is considered and experience on average a six- to seven-year delay in diagnosis.
While the exact cause is not known, research has uncovered evidence toward probable explanations and risk factors. Endometriosis can be hard to manage, but there are many holistic measures to try before resorting to conventional treatment/therapies that can help improve/eliminate symptoms.
And teens . . . I see you. If you’ve had your period for over two years and you keep hearing that your heavy, painful, compromising periods are your “norm,” guess what. It’s not. Seventeen percent of menstruating adolescents experience endometriosis, and 71% of teens feel self-conscious during their periods. Mild discomfort in the first one to two days of your period is OK, but if you’re missing school or other activities due to pain and bleeding, you must discuss with your provider, as this is not normal.
Common symptoms can be:
- painful periods
- pain with a bowel movement/rectal pain with your period
- pelvic pain and pain between periods
- heavy menstrual bleeding and/or bleeding between periods
- pain with intercourse
Less common associated symptoms are:
- irritable bowel
- bloating and fatigue, especially during your menstrual period
What are some first steps to take?
Talk with a parent, provider, friend, school counselor—you are not alone.
Start tracking your cycles. Track the physical and emotional parts of your cycle—if you’re anxious on day 16, track it. Spotting happens on day 20, track it, etc. This is super helpful for providers.
Stay active. Low intensity stretching exercises are very helpful with pain and cramping. Utilize these exercises and listen to your body when it needs rest.
Eat the rainbow. Healthy eating and frequent snacks will help ease nausea and reduce inflammation. Drink a lot of water and reduce caffeine intake to help manage additional bowel issues too. Avoid skipping meals.
Every environment is different. It’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK to ask for accommodations if the pain is too severe. Learn what your expectations are within school or your employer and establish open communication to promote an easier transition of managing your symptoms.
Teenagers are not always readily heard by providers and can be put into a category that can feel like dismissal. There also seems to be a stigma around the menstrual cycle that women get embarrassed by, and many women find it difficult to talk about their pain until it becomes more serious, or they struggle with fertility. Open communication with your provider is essential to ensure you get a timely diagnosis. Let’s normalize these conversations and lean into why your menstrual cycle is an important vital sign to your health and wellness.
Let’s spread awareness so you are not mis-diagnosed, dismissed or delayed.
~ Anne, APRN, CNM, WHNP
Let’s transform together and give you high-quality, personalized health care. Let’s find your full circle.
I’m Anne (pronounced “Annie”), and I am the owner/founder of Full Circle Women’s Health Clinic. I believe women are a full circle, and I strive to provide evidence-based full spectrum women’s health care in a personalized and holistic approach, partnering “with woman” and empowering her to make informed choices for her care. My heart is to give back to my community by offering alternative healthcare options for women. I am a board-certified nurse midwife with master’s degrees from Frontier Nursing University in nurse midwifery and women’s health nurse practitioner.