4 signs of endometriosis to look out for
Did you know, 1 in 10 people who menstruate have endometriosis? This is where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows outside the womb, adhering to the ovaries, bowel, pelvis and in rare cases, even on the lungs and brain.
Endometriosis leads to inflammation and chronic pain, and it affects almost 200 million people worldwide. Despite this, on average, it takes up to a decade for people to receive a diagnosis.
Trying to reach a diagnosis can be an isolating, confusing experience, but information is power. Here are some key things to look out for that could be signs of endometriosis.
1. Intense period pain
It can unfortunately be really common for people to dismiss the severity of their period pain as ‘normal’, and something to ‘get on with’ each month. So, here’s our PSA: debilitating period pain isn’t normal, and it could be a sign of an underlying health condition, such as endometriosis.
In 2018, the NHS named endometriosis 1 of 20 most painful conditions. We’d strongly advise you to check in with a doctor if:
- You’re experiencing pain that’s severe enough to make you regularly miss out on daily activities
- Your cramps keep getting worse
- Your cramps only started after you turned 25
2. Pain during or after sex
When you have endometriosis, tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as your fallopian tubes and ovaries. It can also grow behind your vagina in the lower uterus and on your bladder. As a result, penetration can pull or stretch irritated tissue. This is one of the main reasons why people with endometriosis experience pain during sex, and even when inserting tampons or period cups.
3. Bowel trouble
Just as the growth of endometrial tissue can cause pain during sex, it can also adhere to your rectum and bowel walls. This makes painful bowel movements during your period, constipation and diarrhoea key indicators of endometriosis.
It can be difficult to distinguish between bowel issues triggered by endometriosis and those as a result of other conditions, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Something to look out for is whether or not your symptoms vary with your menstrual cycle - do your symptoms get worse in the days before and after your period? Keeping track of these symptoms in relation to your cycle will be helpful in reaching a diagnosis.
4. Irregular bleeding and spotting between periods
Does the gap between your periods keep changing? If you have endometriosis, you may experience irregular periods or bleeding between periods. Bleeding between periods could be very light spotting or you could even experience a heavier flow in the middle of your cycle.
The bottom line:
Our menstrual cycles provide us with an opportunity to check in with ourselves each month. Tune in to the signals your body is sending you, and trust your intuition when something doesn’t feel right. If you think you could have endometriosis, or any underlying condition, we'd advise you to speak to a doctor, and keep a record of your symptoms through your cycle - this can be really useful for doctors trying to reach a diagnosis.