5 symptoms of Endometriosis every woman should know

There’s a rare woman who has a problem-free period, someone who doesn’t hate those three-four days every month. Most of us suffer some form physical or emotional turmoil before and during our periods. But what if I told you that if all your suffer from are pre-menstrual acne, some level of emotional upheaval and/or cramps, then you’re one of the lucky few? It’s true.

When I was in class 8, we had a new girl in class. She seemed perfectly okay through most of the month but every month for about a week or more she would disappear. Her attendance was low and we often wondered where she went away so regularly. I mean we all had periods but why did hers take her away so much from school. In class 9, when we got to know her better, she would tell us how her bleeding would not stop for days, how it was so painful that she would pass out, that she never knew when her period was coming on. She used to go pale in the middle of the day and then we wouldn’t see her for days together. For us, then, it was hard to wrap our heads around the fact that a monthly period could be that bad. And we had no clue that this was an illness. Many of us even assumed she was too sensitive and had a low threshold for pain. It was some time later that we came to know she had something called endometriosis. Even then, we had no clue what it meant. And I am sure neither did our teachers and other staff, because very often we found them unsympathetic.

So, what exactly is endometriosis? Endometriosis is the abnormal growth of cells (endometrial cells) similar to those that form the inside of the uterus, but in a location outside of the uterus. Endometriosis is more common in women who are experiencing infertility than in fertile women, but the condition does not necessarily cause infertility.

Many times, endometriosis is mistaken for menstrual pain and discomfort and often takes many years to be diagnosed. When women do experience symptoms, they encounter severe abdominal pain, painful sexual intercourse, infertility, pain during bowel movement and urination.  

1. Heavy periods

Many women with endometriosis experience extremely heavy periods and may even notice clots in their period blood. When you get your period, the endometrial growths react to menstrual hormones from your ovaries the same way the lining of your uterus does, so they grow and bleed, too. As endometrial growths get bigger over time, they can bleed even more.

2. Abdominal pain, especially during your period

Pelvic pain is typically the most obvious symptom of endometriosis. Some people may have chronic pain that never goes away, but it usually gets particularly bad right before and during menstruation. When endometrial tissue bleeds in places where it can't (or can't easily) exit your body, it can cause swelling and pain. This cramping pain is usually most intense in the lower abdomen and lower back—like regular period cramps but way worse.

3. Gastrointestinal pain

Endometriosis can cause constipation, diarrhoea, intestinal pain, and pain with bowel movements. These symptoms also look a lot like a gastrointestinal problem or a food intolerance, which is why endometriosis is often confused with digestive disorders. While good bowel health could have a positive effect on some types of endometriosis pain, it's not going to make it disappear.

4. Painful intercourse

Painful sex is another big indicator of endometriosis. The pain can happen during sex, right after, or even continue into the day after. What is perhaps terrible is that most people don’t articulate this facet of the condition. Sex can be even more painful before or during your period, when the tissue becomes most inflamed.

5. Infertility

Up to 50 percent of women with endometriosis experience infertility. It's actually possible that the only symptom of the disease you have is infertility. For many women, they don't learn that they have endometriosis until they start having trouble getting pregnant and go in for a full fertility workup.

If you’ve felt any of this, then it’s a good idea to go get yourself checked up. Because there is hope at hand. Many women I know lead relatively pain-free, normal lives with the condition because they’ve got the right kind of help. So what are your options?

1. Pain medication: Your doctor will, depending on your unique condition, prescribe pain medication in combination with other therapies in order to help you maintain a quality of life.

2. Hormone therapy: Because of the hormonal fluctuation during your period, the pain and other symptoms during that time might be intensified. Many kinds of hormone therapy are available in order to maintain a balance.

3. Surgery: If you’re trying to conceive then some kind of conservative surgery might be the way to go. The best way to discover if this is the way forward for you would be to have a deep and honest chat with your doctor.

This article is sponsored by Motherhood Hospital, a leading maternity hospital in Bangalore that provides comprehensive and personalised care that includes obstetrics, gynecology, neonatology, pediatrics, fetal medicine, radiology and specialty outpatient clinics.

To book an appointment, click here.