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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.

In spite of the awkwardness you’ll feel about some health concerns, you need to consult with your gynecologist or other health care provider. They understand your anxieties and have experience answering all types of questions.

1. Why are my periods irregular?
Experiencing an early or delayed menstrual cycle is actually quite normal. Irregular periods can be related to a condition called “anovulation.” This simply means that ovulation hasn’t occurred yet due to severe hormonal imbalances.

Sometimes an irregular period may be due to subtler hormone imbalances. You may be ovulating, but the timing of your ovulation can switch around greatly month-to-month. Lifestyle and medical conditions contribute to these variables, such as extreme exercising or dieting, the pill, age, stress, or symptoms of other physical problems.

2. What is douching and should I do it?
The term “douche” refers to a cleansing solution used to freshen the vagina. Douches are known to come in a prepackaged bottle that allows women to squirt the solution through a nozzle.

The practice of douching has long been debated. Douching potentially causes yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis. Perceiving douching as a sanitary practice is a misnomer when it comes to hygiene. It’s far better to keep the area clean through showering and keeping adequate “airflow” to your nether region.

3. I have tiny bumps “down there” that can be painful. What are they and how do I know if it’s something more serious?
Anything spotted in the way of bumps or red spots might have you alarmed, but it might not be what you’re thinking. In many instances, these bumps could just be pimples or an ingrown hair on your pubic region. Also,if you shave your pubic hair, bumps might appear out of skin irritation.

If the bumps are painful, seem to be growing or spreading or secrete a colored liquid discharge, this could be more serious and you should see your gynecologist. Sometimes these bumps can result from the herpes virus or other infections.

4. I have a foul-smelling discharge coming from my vagina and I’m itching terribly. What is it?
Yeast infections are one type of irritation women may get from time to time. It’s a fungal infection that causes irritation, discharge and intense itchiness of the vagina and the vulva. Put another way, it’s a type of vaginitis, or inflammation of the vagina.

Vaginal yeast infections isn’t considered a sexually transmitted infection, you can spread the fungus through mouth to genital contact. There are several over-the-counter medications in the way of anti-fungal vaginal creams or suppositories that can effectively treat these infections.

5.  Can I get pregnant one week after my period ends?
Fertility levels change as your body moves through the monthly cycle. There are times you’re more fertile than others during the month, but there’s never a true “safe” time that your fertility levels drop low enough to completely eliminate the chance of becoming pregnant. The time after your period can be a very fertile time, so be consistent with birth control if you use it.

The doctors at Pacific Women’s Center deal with these sensitive issues and many others every day. They welcome your concerns and want to answer your most embarrassing questions. Call the center today for help and reassurance that you have the same concerns as everyone else!