What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is an important condition in women's health. Are you worried about it? Do you wonder what it is and how it affects women? Then this is the article for you! We'll explore endometriosis, how it occurs, signs and symptoms, as well as management and treatment. We'll also consider how it affects fertility in women of reproductive age.
Endometriosis is a condition where tissue that is similar to the lining of the uterus (endometrium) begins to grow outside of the uterus such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes or even the abdominal cavity. Endometriosis can affect women at any age and is a long-term condition. It may have a significant impact on a woman’s life, but there are treatments and management options available. Endometriosis affects 10% of women worldwide – that’s 176 million women.
What causes endometriosis?
Unfortunately, the cause of endometriosis is not known. Several theories have been suggested including:
- Retrograde menstruation – this is when some menstruation flows the wrong way, back into the fallopian tubes and sits on the organs of the pelvis, instead of leaving the uterus as a period
- A problem with the immune system, the body’s natural defense
- Endometrial cells spreading through the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system (part of the immune system)
What are the signs and symptoms of endometriosis?
As with many conditions, endometriosis affects women in different ways. For some, symptoms of endometriosis are obvious and severe, for others they are milder or even unnoticeable. Symptoms of endometriosis may include one or a combination of the following:
- Pain in your lower tummy or back that is worse during your period
- Period pain that is debilitating and affects your daily life
- Pain during or after sex
- Pain when going to the toilet
- Feeling sick, constipated, having diarrhoea or blood in your urine during your period
- Fertility issues
- Heavy periods – you might have to use a lot of tampons or pads
It’s really important to recognize that symptoms may have an effect on your mental health and you could feel quite depressed. It’s always worth seeking advice from your healthcare professional however slight your symptoms may be.
When should I see a healthcare professional?
If your symptoms are affecting your life then it’s time to visit your healthcare professional! In the meantime, it might be a good idea to keep track of your symptoms and a dedicated diary has even been developed that you can access here. If you’re using the Natural Cycles app, you can also use our notes and trackers feature to keep on top of your menstrual cycle symptoms.
Do bear in mind that diagnosis of endometriosis is quite difficult, as the signs and symptoms vary considerably between women. Your healthcare professional may ask to examine your vagina and tummy to help understand your condition. Then they may recommend treatments, but if these do not relieve your symptoms, you may be referred to a gynecologist for more in-depth tests.
How to treat endometriosis?
There is currently no cure for endometriosis but your healthcare professional can offer treatments that help alleviate the symptoms. Treatments include:
- Painkillers including ibuprofen and paracetamol
- Hormonal contraception including the combined pill, contraceptive patch
- Surgery can be carried out to remove patches of endometriosis tissue
Your healthcare professional will discuss all the options available to you. In some cases, they may suggest not starting treatment straight away to see if the symptoms get better on their own.
How does endometriosis affect my fertility?
Although fertility is not affected in all women, endometriosis can make getting pregnant more difficult. Studies have shown that between 30-50% of women with subfertility have endometriosis. Surgery to remove the endometriosis tissue can help improve your chances of getting pregnant, but there is no guarantee that it will improve your fertility. When you start trying for a baby, speak to your healthcare professional if you think you may have endometriosis.
Can I use Natural Cycles if I have endometriosis?
Natural Cycles users who have endometriosis often find that using the app is a great way to keep a record of symptoms for later presentation to their healthcare professional. Knowing your menstrual cycle helps you recognize any changes that may indicate that a condition is developing.
We hope you’ve learned something about endometriosis and how it can affect your reproductive health! If you’re interested in finding out more about your cycle, why not try Natural Cycles? It’s FDA Cleared, 100% hormone-free and personalized to your unique cycle.