The actresses Julianne Hough and Lena Dunham, along with celebrity fitness trainer Jillian Michaels have all spoken out about their struggles with endometriosis (en-doe-me-tree-Oh-sis). One thing stands out about their stories. It often takes a long time for many women to realize that the severe pain during periods and with intercourse is not typical. “For the longest time, I thought: this is the way my period is,” Julianne Hough told People magazine. “I didn’t want to complain, so I’d just deal with it and ignore it.” The truth is, sometimes severe pain during periods is not normal, it’s endometriosis.
Endometriosis is an overgrowth of uterine tissue outside of the uterus. The tissue that normally grows inside the uterus is called endometrium. The endometrial tissue can grow where it shouldn’t grow. It can grow around ovaries, fallopian tubes, the tissue lining the pelvis. More rarely, it can grow outside the pelvis. Endometriosis affects one in 10 women of reproductive age.
Even though the endometrial tissue grows where it should not be, it still breaks down during each menstrual cycle. The body tries to shed it through the uterus as normal endometrial tissue would normally be shed.. This can cause severe pain during periods.
Endometriosis and Fertility
Endometriosis can affect fertility. Some women with endometriosis can have trouble becoming pregnant. Working with an experienced fertility doctor in Eugene can help women who want to start a family be proactive and make a plan.
Diagnosis of Endometriosis
The first step in diagnosing endometriosis is a pelvic exam. If the doctor can not feel areas of endometrial tissue growth, she may use ultrasound or surgical laparoscopy. A diagnosis of endometriosis is made if endometrial tissue is found growing anywhere outside the uterus.
Treatment of Endometriosis
Self-care to make you comfortable during the painful periods is important. Try heating pads or warm compresses. It may be safe to take over-the-counter pain medications such as Advil or Aleve at doses your doctor recommends.
Your doctor may suggest hormone therapy or a prescription drug called Lupron that suppresses endometrial tissue growth. This would not be recommended for a woman who is actively trying to become pregnant. Talk to your doctor about your desires for family planning.
Surgery can be an option in severe cases of endometriosis. Discuss risks and benefits of surgery with your doctor. A personalized treatment plan that takes into account your goals will work best for you.