Endometriosis, where womb-lining cells sit outside the womb, affects 1 in 10 women in the UK but many won't even know they have it. That's because the symptoms begin early and women learn to accept them as normal. In most cases endometriosis is treatable, but the longer it goes undiagnosed the more damage it may be doing to your lifestyle, internal organs and reproductive health. If you're concerned about any of the following symptoms, consult your GP or a women's health specialist.
Endometriosis often runs in families, so many women won't notice anything abnormal about their period pain when they compare with their mother or sisters. But in school or the workplace, it's important to talk with other women to gain a better understanding of what might be considered normal.
If your period pain is severe enough to interrupt your life for 3-4 days a month, it could be a sign of endometriosis. During your menstrual cycle, the womb-lining cells that may be sitting outside your womb thicken and bleed in the same way as the cells inside the womb. This is why the pain comes on with your period but is more severe and lasts longer than typical period pain.
Pain while going to the toilet
Over time, the womb-lining cells that bleed outside the womb can create adhesion in the organs in your pelvis, sometimes contributing to pain during bowel movements and urinating. This can affect you at any time, not just during your period.
Pain during sex
Unfortunately, women with endometriosis may have only ever known sex to be painful and so think it normal. The monthly bleeding outside the womb that occurs has no way to leave the body and so can build up and cause internal scarring and inflammation. These painful areas are agitated during sex, diminishing a woman's ability to enjoy intercourse and sometimes placing strain on sexual relationships.
Difficulty getting pregnant
When endometriosis is left untreated, fibrosis can occur and the adhesion between organs in the pelvis can negatively impact the ovarian tubes. Not only does this make getting pregnant more difficult, but can also render women infertile.
Don't just accept these issues as normal, speak to your GP or a women's health specialist to see if we can help.
Last updated Tuesday 30 March 2021
First published on Wednesday 16 March 2016