Period pains. Pretty common right? You don’t look forward to the cringing and crawling into bed thanks to the monthly pain, but that’s normal, and most girls go through it, right?
Really painful periods could be a sign that you are suffering from endometriosis. Not many Malaysian women know what endometriosis is, despite how common it is. And we’re not just saying this. We randomly went around asking our friends and family, and very few people have even heard about it.
What is Endometriosis?
When it’s that time of the month, your hormones send signals to the endometrium to get it to thicken up, in preparation for the egg. However, if you do not get pregnant, the endometrium breaks down and leaves your body as blood. This is when we get our dreaded monthly period.
Endometriosis happens when cells called endometrium in your uterus (womb) grows outside of your uterus as well. It still reacts the same way thanks to the hormones, thickening up, and then breaking down if there’s no egg coming. The thing is, it’s outside of your uterus and your body cannot shed it, so it gets trapped. As time passes, the trapped tissues and blood builds up, developing into scar tissue and adhesions, which leads to the symptoms of endometriosis.
What are the Symptoms of Endometriosis?
1. Super painful periods
It starts a few days before your period, and lasts the entire length of your period.
2. Painful sex
You’ll feel it during and after sex, usually felt deep inside.
3. Bleeding too much
Heavy periods could occur, as also bleeding between periods.
4. Pelvic pain
The pain usually worsens before and during your period.
5. Difficulty getting pregnant
20%-40% of women who are infertile have endometriosis.
6. Pain while you’re doing your business
Pain with bowel movements or urination could occur during your period.
What Should I Do if I Think I Have Endometriosis?
Go to see a doctor and tell him / her your symptoms and the area of pain. The doctor will usually begin with a pelvic exam to check for cysts, and other abnormalities. To be fully certain it is endometriosis, a surgeon needs to examine your body internally.
The diagnosis is usually done through a laparoscopy, which is an minor surgical procedure performed on your abdomen or pelvis. The surgeon will insert a camera through small incisions so he can see if there are signs of endometrial growths.
What Causes Endometriosis?
The causes for endometriosis are still unknown, but there are severel theories ranging from genes to an immune system disorder.
Am I at Risk for Endometriosis?
Your risk is higher if you have:
- a close relative with endometriosis (especially your mother or sister)
- a short menstrual cycle (less than 25 days)
- menstrual flow which lasts more than 7 days
- heavy flow
- a medical condition that blocks or constricts your cervix or vagina
- a birth defect of your uterus (like a double uterus or double cervix)
How Do I Treat Endometriosis?
Treatment options depend on your symptoms, age, severity of disease, as well as whether you want to get pregnant. There are mainly 3 treatment options, which are:
1. Pain medication
If you are suffering from mild symptoms, the doctor will usually just prescribe you with pain medication like ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve your menstrual cramps.
2. Hormone treatment
If your symptoms are moderate, hormone treatments might come in to help treat endometriosis. However, this would only work if you are not looking to get pregnant. Doctors would usually prescribe birth control pills, progestins, GnRH agonists and antagonists, etc.
If you’re trying to get pregnant, having a surgery to remove the endometrial growths might increase your chances. It is also the best choice if you have severe endometriosis (many growths and a lot of pain).
Endometriosis is a condition with no known causes or preventative measures, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be helped. If you do suffer a lot from period pain, always seek help instead of suffering in silence.
Do you have endometriosis or know anyone who does? Share your experience with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page!