There are a lot of misconceptions about women’s health and, more specifically, women’s pain, that exist in society and even the medical field. One condition that has long been shrouded in mystery is endometriosis. In fact, there is so much misinformation out there about this disease that there’s an entire month—March—dedicated to raising awareness and setting things straight.
This year for Endometriosis Awareness Month, we’re going to clear up some of the most persistent myths that have been perpetuated about this serious and common condition. Let’s take a look.
Myth: Endometriosis just means having bad periods.
One of the most harmful misconceptions that circulates about endometriosis is that it’s just having “bad” periods. Painful periods are the most common symptom of endometriosis, but this type of pain is not normal or a result of just having a period.
Endometriosis is when tissue that is similar to the tissue that grows in your uterus grows outside of your uterus. These implants often respond to increased estrogen levels throughout your cycle, causing inflammation, pain, and scarring. Pain of any kind that interferes with your daily life, even period pain, is NOT normal and should be addressed with your doctor.
Myth: You have to have severe pain to have endometriosis.
Again, severe pain is the most common symptom of endometriosis, but you can still have it if your pain is only mild. Some women don’t even experience pain with their endometriosis at all, only discovering they have it when they have trouble getting pregnant.
Pain doesn’t always occur in sync with your periods either. Painful urination, painful bowel movements, painful sex, and chronic pain in between periods can also be symptoms of the disease. The severity of endometriosis progression does not correlate with the severity of symptoms.
Myth: Endometrial tissue can only grow in the pelvis.
Endometriosis most often affects the organs around your uterus, such as your ovaries, fallopian tubes, bowel, and bladder. As a result, pain is usually felt in the pelvis/lower abdomen, legs, and lower back. Endometrial tissue is not limited to the reproductive organs though—it can grow anywhere in the body. Although it is far less common, endometriosis can spread to places like the sciatic nerve, diaphragm/lungs, and (rarely) even the brain.
Myth: Endometriosis makes you infertile.
It is true that in some cases, endometriosis can make it more difficult for a woman to get pregnant. However, an endometriosis diagnosis does not necessarily mean you will experience fertility issues. Many women with endometriosis go on to conceive several children.
While experts are not certain, it does appear that the likelihood of infertility increases with the severity of the disease. Even women with severe endometriosis can get pregnant though, as fertility treatments and surgery to remove endometrial lesions can help.
Myth: Pregnancy cures endometriosis.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for endometriosis. Many people, doctors included, used to believe that pregnancy could halt the disease. We now know this is not the case. Pregnancy hormones and the lack of period often relieve endometriosis symptoms, but they will likely return after you give birth or stop breast feeding.
Similarly, neither menopause nor a hysterectomy can cure endometriosis either. After menopause, your body still produces low amounts of estrogen that can trigger a response in already-existing endometrial lesions. Because these lesions and the pain and symptoms they cause are not limited to the reproductive system, the disease can still be left behind after a hysterectomy too.
Myth: We know what causes endometriosis.
Doctors have theories about what may cause endometriosis and have observed correlations, but a definitive cause has yet to be proven. Retrograde menstruation, surgical scar implantation, and endometrial cell transport are just a few explanations that have been thrown around.
We do know that estrogen makes symptoms worse and that genetics play a role—if a close relative (mom, sister, aunt) had it, you are at higher risk for developing it too. Additionally, we know for certain that endometriosis is not caused by STDs, infections, abortion, douching, or psychological issues, all of which the disease been mistakenly attributed to in the past.
One unfortunate truth about endometriosis is that it takes, on average, 7-10 years for women to be diagnosed and treated for it, most often because their pain is not taken seriously. That is a fact that Endometriosis Awareness Month is trying to change.
If you’re experiencing painful periods, heavy bleeding, or other symptoms of endometriosis, make an appointment at South Avenue Women’s Services. Our medical professionals are here to listen, get to the bottom of what’s going on, and help you manage your condition, so you can live a better life.
Call us today at 585-271-3850 to schedule your visit!