It’s a condition as tricky to say as it is to understand. The cause of endometriosis still eludes us and currently, there is no cure.
Endometriosis affects millions all over the world and costs public health systems billions of dollars each year.
It occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus is found growing in places it shouldn’t be, like the ovaries or bladder.
In New Zealand, more than a hundred thousand of us suffer from this disease, so it’s time to bust some common myths about endometriosis.
Myth 1: Endometriosis is a rare disease.
Nope, it is one of the most common gynaecological conditions among women. It is difficult to assess exactly how many women have endometriosis because many lack any noticeable symptoms, but it's estimated the disease affects at least 120,000 girls and women in New Zealand and around 176 million women worldwide.
Myth 2: I’m way too young to worry about having endometriosis.
Actually, it’s really common for symptoms to start in the teen years, sometimes from a girl’s first period. This is particularly so if there’s a family history of endometriosis or menstrual pain. It’s really important not to delay seeking help as early intervention is vital to relieve suffering and avoid the possibility of affecting fertility down the track.
Myth 3: Endometriosis isn’t a big deal. Kind of like getting period cramps, right?
The pain of endometriosis can be crippling, and some people are admitted to hospital. The pain of endometriosis can affect one’s ability to work, perform daily chores, or have sexual relations, even going to the toilet can be painful.
Myth 4: It hurts when I have sex, but that’s just life.
Pain with sex is never normal. There are a number of reasons sex can hurt, like if there is not enough lubrication, if you are anxious and not relaxed or have an infection (like thrush). Painful sex is a symptom of endometriosis too and if your periods are also painful it’s definitely time to talk to someone.
Myth 5: Abortion causes endometriosis.
No way! There is no scientific evidence linking abortion and consequently developing endometriosis.
Myth 6: Wearing tampons causes endometriosis
Again, there is not a thread of evidence that supports this theory. There is actually no known cause of endometriosis, but it seems to run in families.
Myth 7: If I’m diagnosed with endometriosis, I can’t have babies.
Not quite. The disease can affect fertility but that doesn’t mean that with the right diagnosis and treatment you can’t get pregnant. It is generally believed that 60–70 per cent of women with endometriosis are fertile. Furthermore, about half the women who have difficulties getting pregnant do eventually conceive with or without treatment.
Myth 8: I can prevent endometriosis by being fit and healthy!
Sorry, but there is no known way of preventing endometriosis, and it is not a disease which is “contracted” or “caused” by anything you did – nor is it contagious.
Myth 9: If not treated, endometriosis grows, spreads, and gets worse.
Not necessarily. The signs, symptoms, and natural course of endometriosis varies from patient to patient. Currently, no one cannot predict whether endometriosis will progress, remain unchanged, cause fertility problems or pain, or require surgery. If you have symptoms, it’s best to go see your doctor or a gynaecologist.
Myth 10: I don’t have all the endometriosis symptoms so I don’t have the disease.
Some of the symptoms of endometriosis include: painful periods, pelvic pain, painful sex, heavy or irregular bleeding, fatigue, and pain during bowel movements or urination. Some women with endometriosis will have none of these symptoms, some will have one, and others will experience them all. Every woman is unique in how their symptoms may or may not manifest. Also, the severity or stage of endometriosis does not translate into severity of symptoms experienced.
Information provided by Endometriosis New Zealand. For more information, visit their website.