If you bled in random places every month on the outside of your body, people would understand why you were in agony. People would realise why you couldn't go to work or school or why you couldn't even get out of bed.
But, because people with endometriosis bleed on the inside, and it’s a long (probably latin) word that no one has really heard of, no one understands or gets it. The consequence is that women with endometriosis suffer massively. They often even encounter great difficulties to get a diagnosis and the treatment they need to manage their pain.
Women with endo get fed up of being asked why are they complaining about their period so much? I’m sure they feel like screaming ‘endometriosis is an illness and not just a period.’
Endo is common, and the women you know, love, care about or work with, might be affected by it.
Endo is a medical condition where the tissue that usually lines the womb ends up in the wrong places. This tissue somehow becomes randomly scattered around the body, usually in the pelvis, but definitely in places it’s not supposed to be.
Every month the lining of the womb prepares itself to hopefully receive a fertilised egg and grow a baby- it doesn’t understand women don’t want to be permanently pregnant. When the lining of the womb isn’t required to hold a pregnancy it has an easy escape route- the vagina. The blood that comes out every month is the old lining of the womb that is no longer needed- this is what a period is.
But the tissue in random places is exactly the same as the tissue lining the womb and it still responds to the body’s monthly cycle and bleeds. This tissue doesn’t know it’s in the wrong place and it has not got an escape route out. Old blood with no way out stays trapped until the body has had time to break it down and resorb it.
Blood hurts the pelvis, it sticks it’s organs together, cysts can form and burst and it causes agony to women with the condition.
This is endometriosis, it’s a chronic, incurable condition where you are basically bleeding in places you are not supposed to, all of them on the inside. No one knows why some women get it and others don’t, why some women have it their whole reproductive lives and others develop it later on.
Sadly historically endo hasn’t been extensively researched as it was brushed aside as simply ‘period pain.’ We now know endo is not simply ‘period pain,’ it is far worse. As research develops and new things come out, hopefully one day we may be able to explain what causes or even cure this complex condition.
Extreme pelvic pain and all the symptoms endo causes is not normal. It’s not normal to have to sprint to the bathroom at work to avoid the embarrassment of blood leaking on to your trousers. It’s not normal to look down when you get up from a chair when you’re on your period to make sure you haven’t stained it with blood. It’s not normal to not be able to get out of bed and face the day when you’re on your period because you are in so much pain. Nothing about endometriosis is normal.
I would love to tell women with endo there was a cure for their suffering, but there isn’t. For now, I guess it’s all about raising awareness. It’s about educating people as to what the condition is and what can be done to help. It’s about helping women to get the diagnosis they need to access help to manage the chronic condition they have.
Endometriosis is an illness, not ‘just a period.’