Endometriosis can lead to worsening pain and even infertility further down the line, but too often problem periods are written off as “just part of being a woman”. In fact, it takes the average sufferer up to 7 years from the onset of symptoms to get a proper diagnosis and treatment! But how do you tell the difference between endometriosis and regular period pain? Let’s run through some of the common signs you can discuss with your physician.
What does endometriosis feel like?
The symptoms of endometriosis aren’t the same for everyone with the condition. However, about 75% sufferers do have issues with pelvic pain and menstrual pain.1The pain of endometriosis occurs because sections of the uterine lining (endometrium) start growing outside the womb where it doesn’t belong, such as the ovaries or fallopian tubes.
When this excess endometrial tissue responds to the hormonal changes of the menstrual period, it bleeds too – but with no exit route through the vagina, the blood builds up, causing pain, inflammation and scarring to the surrounding tissue.
Although pain is the most well-known symptom of the condition, current research suggests that the severity of the pain says more about the location of the endometrial lesions than the progress of the disease.
Do I have endometriosis risk factors?
Endometriosis doesn’t discriminate – it can affect anyone born with a uterus. However, research suggests you’re more likely to be affected by endometriosis if:
- You’re in your 30s or 40s
- You haven’t given birth before
- You have close female relatives with endometriosis
- You have a short menstrual cycle (less than 28 days)
Endometriosis symptom checklist
Endometriosis doesn’t look the same in everyone, but there are some common experiences many sufferers can relate to. If you suspect you might have the symptoms of endometriosis, tick off what applies to you and talk it over with your doctor.
During my period, I…
- … have very severe pain.
- … tend to bleed a lot/more than I used to.
- … notice lumps in my period blood.
- … feel very tired, nauseated and/or dizzy.
- … don’t feel better even if I take over-the-counter pain medicine.
In between periods, I…
- … still get abdominal cramping.
- … notice irregular bleeding/spotting.
Other possible symptoms of endometriosis
- I feel pain when I have sex.
- I feel pain when I go to the bathroom.
- I haven’t been able to get pregnant. (infertility)
Ask your doctor straight up: “Do I have endometriosis?”
This checklist gives an idea of what endometriosis can be. However, every woman is different, and not everyone with endometriosis will have the same set of symptoms. It’s normal if you get some pain and cramping around your periods – but severe pain that interferes with your daily life isn’t normal, and you don’t need to put up with it.
If you suspect you might have endometriosis, ask your doctor or gynecologist where to go from here, which might help cut back on the 7-year wait time it takes the sufferers to get diagnosed on average.