For years, endometriosis has been seen as a ‘silent’ disease despite its effects going far from unnoticed when it comes to the level of pain and discomfort sufferers have to go through.
“A woman with significant pain during her period should know that it is not a normal consequence of her cycle. She must listen to her body and her symptoms, and give voice to this condition that is anything but silent. Early diagnosis of endometriosis can help to improve the quality of life for the patients and also to minimize the impact of the disease on fertility”, said Dr Cesar Diaz-Garcia, Medical Director of IVI London and fertility surgeon.
In the UK, a diagnosis of endometriosis takes nearly 8 years on average. One of the reasons why the condition is not diagnosed sooner is because early tell-tale symptoms are commonly confused as normal side effects of the menstrual cycle. That is why it is so important to be vigilant and in tune with your body, and take action when something doesn’t feel right.
The most common symptoms of endometriosis are:
- Very heavy or very painful periods (dysmenorrhea)
- Pain during or after sexual intercourse (dyspareunia)
- Painful bowel movements or pain when urinating
- Chronic pelvic or lower abdominal pain outside of the menstrual cycle
At present, there is no cure for endometriosis. Therefore, it’s essential to diagnose the condition as soon as possible to reduce its effects and stop it from evolving into more serious stages. The most frequent treatments used are pain killers and hormonal treatment (usually in the form of the contraceptive pill). In more severe cases, surgery may be required.
Endometriosis: Myths & truths
Myth: Endometriosis is always painful.
Truth: Although endometriosis is normally very painful, there are cases where it can be completely pain-free and asymptomatic.
Myth: Endometriosis is linked to ovarian cancer.
Truth: Endometriosis is a benign disease, which means it is not cancerous. As a benign disease, endometriosis can be associated with the formation of benign ovarian cysts. Although in some rare cases it can be quite severe, the disease cannot cause cancerous cysts.
Myth: Pregnancy cures endometriosis.
Truth: As we have mentioned, there is no cure for endometriosis. However, some women experience a relief in symptoms during pregnancy but these symptoms often return afterwards.
Myth: Endometriosis is a rare disease.
Truth: Endometriosis affects between 5% and 10% of the female population. In the UK, it is estimated that 3 million women suffer from the condition, with an additional 170 million worldwide. 1 in 10 women of reproductive age in the world may suffer from it. It is in no way to be considered as infrequent or rare.
Endometriosis: Key facts
- Endometriosis can cause infertility. When it goes untreated, endometriosis can evolve and make pregnancy difficult. Out of all couples who experience fertility problems, more than 30% may be affected by undiagnosed endometriosis. Out of all women with endometriosis, 50% may suffer from infertility if left untreated. That is why it is so important to get an accurate diagnosis as early as possible.
- Endometriosis can be hereditary. Although there is not yet any scientific explanation, studies have shown that there is a greater possibility of having endometriosis when there are cases in the family.
- If you have endometriosis, it is still possible to have a healthy, normal pregnancy. Many women with endometriosis experience pregnancy differently depending on the severity of their condition, however healthy pregnancies without complications are common. However, having endometriosis can lead to higher risks of complications during pregnancy and delivery so you should follow the advice of your doctor who can help you manage the condition during pregnancy.
Mothers with Endometriosis: 10 reasons not to lose hope
We spoke to 10 of our patients who are all living with endometriosis, but haven’t let the condition affect their desires and hopes to have a baby.
Lauren: “Endometriosis has conditioned my whole life, but it has not prevented me from becoming a mother.”
Yolanda: “Lack of knowledge led me to ignore my condition for too long, but fortunately, medical science showed me that I could still become a mother.”
Veronica: “I always think: I don’t know when I’ll get pregnant, but every day is one day less to get there.”
Victoria: “I spent eight years fighting endometriosis, but in the end, I managed to have my babies.”
Lucy: “I was determined that endometriosis would not prevent me from achieving my dream of becoming a mother, and I was right.”
Hannah: “After 6 years of suffering, I am finally confident that I will get pregnant.”
Susana: “Endometriosis showed its face just when I wanted to become a mother, but I didn’t give up.”
Rachel: “After 6 years of trying while all the while living with endometriosis, I have finally achieved my dream of becoming a mother.”
Laura: “Because of my endometriosis, I was told it would be difficult for me to become a mother, but with hope and perseverance I managed to bring two wonderful children into the world.”
Sonya: “I went from believing I wouldn’t be able to have children to putting my trust in someone and achieving it.”
These women are an example of what can be achieved. If you have been diagnosed with endometriosis, it is important not to lose hope. There are treatments available to help you. It is not the end of your fertility journey.
If you would like more information about endometriosis and its affect on fertility, please get in touch with IVI London. We would love to help you.