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Ovia Health Blog

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month

March 6, 2019

This month, we want to shine a light on endometriosis — a condition that, despite affecting 1 in 10 women, is still notoriously difficult to identify and treat.

Endometriosis is a common health problem for women between the ages of 15 and 44, affecting more than 6 ½ million women in the U.S. alone. Women with endometriosis experience intense pain, bleeding or spotting, and even infertility because their uterine lining has started growing outside the uterus. The most common places for endometriosis are on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the tissue that holds the uterus in place, and the outside of the uterus itself.

The reason endometriosis causes pain and other symptoms is that endometriosis still functions like the uterine lining — so even though the endometriosis growths are outside the uterus, they still bleed every month during the menstrual period. That means that swelling and bleeding are occuring in parts of the body that aren't made to handle it. These growths can end up forming cysts and scar tissue, blocking fallopian tubes, and leading to inflammation and problems in the intestines. Many of these complications also impact fertility.

It's important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of endometriosis so that you can advocate for yourself with your healthcare provider if you think you might have this condition. The average endometriosis diagnosis takes up to 7 ½ years, so self-advocacy is critical. According to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the symptoms are:

  • Very painful menstrual cramps that may get worse over time

  • Chronic (long-term) pain in the lower back and pelvis

  • Pain during or after sex. This is usually described as a "deep" pain and is different from pain felt at the entrance to the vagina when penetration begins

  • Intestinal pain

  • Painful bowel movements or pain when urinating during menstrual periods. In rare cases, you may also find blood in your stool or urine

  • Bleeding or spotting between menstrual periods. This can be caused by something other than endometriosis. If it happens often, you should see your doctor

  • Infertility, or not being able to get pregnant

  • Stomach & digestive problems. These include diarrhea, constipation, bloating, or nausea, especially during menstrual periods

There's not yet a way to prevent endometriosis, but you can be aware of the factors that put you at higher risk for developing it, including: short menstrual periods or cycles, a family history of endometriosis, or health problems that block the normal flow of menstrual blood from your body during your period.

Here are a few resources for more information about endometriosis:

  • The Endometriosis Association — an organization that supports those with endometriosis, educates, funds research, and sponsors Endometriosis Awareness Month

  • Endometriosis News — an online magazine all about endometriosis education, management, and treatment

  • The Endometriosis Foundation of America — a non-profit striving to increase recognition of endometriosis, provide advocacy, facilitate expert surgical training, and fund research

  • Endometriosis.org — a global forum that facilitates collaboration and information sharing between women with endometriosis, physicians, scientists, and others interested in the disease

If you think you might have endometriosis, don't hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider and have this important conversation about your reproductive health.

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