Endometriosis (endo) is a condition in which a woman’s uterine cells travel outside of the uterus and attach to other organs and body tissue. The cells that migrate and invade another part of the body, are known as endometrial ‘implants’. These implants can be found on a woman’s ovaries, fallopian tubes, colon, connective tissue, or any other place in the body. The lungs, the nose, in the diaphragm, the brain, in the knees. The cells can travel anywhere inside the body.
The implants can severely disrupt the body’s natural processes. It can be devastating for a woman’s digestion, immune system, hormone balance, reproductive health, sexual intimacy, and fertility.
Where the endometrial implants are, determine the way in which the woman’s condition presents and the way they experience pain. Thus, endo is unique from person to person. No two individuals will experience endometriosis in the same way. Because of this, every woman’s path to treat their endo and heal will be unique as well.
Looking back at the last several thousand years, women unfortunately frequently were considered ‘hysterical’ for “overreacting” to pain.
Sigmund Freud famously diagnosed women experiencing heavy periods, infertility, and generalized pain with hysteria and concluded that what these women were experiencing was psychosomatic. However, when endo specialists study these women’s language and the symptoms they described closely, it is believed that they had endometriosis or another painful, gynecological condition.
Women were treated in especially harsh in Ancient Greece. One treatment for heavy menstrual bleeding was placing leeches inside the woman’s uterus. Ouch.
Fast forward to now and we still have many treatment options that are very painful and can feel dehumanizing. Hysterectomies.
Since there is no cure, a woman with endo is combating their illness and these treatments for the majority of her life. It is possible to experience symptoms ahead of menstruation and after menopause.
It is well past the time for awareness and an evolution in the way endo is treated.
A New Era
In 2020 there are many options available to women now that were not in existence thirty years ago. This is a new age. Collectively, our world is beginning to realize the way in which women and women’s pain has been ignored and minimized. By our doctors, by our family, and other women. Women do not always tell their story in fear of being judged, about a condition that is related to menstruation, and if they do, they may be considered to be exaggerating or lying.
Western society is reevaluating what it means to be supportive of women and how we can ease their burdens. However, there is no expectation for gender disparities to disappear anytime soon. It will be gradual.
The medical world is growing and evolving. There are treatments that are less invasive. There seems to be wider acknowledgment of the physical and mental toll that endometriosis has and the importance of finding the right balance of care and support to help the individual.
In The Future
There is a lot more work to be done to understand endometriosis; how it forms and how to reduce it and ideally prevent it. I believe there are many leaps and bounds that will see in the next decade. Just like, Lisa Griffith’s work at MIT. She is looking at what we can learn from studying the uterus as a very powerful organ.
One of the primary focuses should be around ending the stigma around menstruation and women’s pain. Especially with our daughters, sisters, mothers. We have a collective obligation to the women in our world to break the taboo around women’s pain.
Consider that it can take women 8-10 years to receive a diagnosis for endometriosis because doctors brush their symptoms aside and others assure them that it is ‘normal’. And that these women are often handed a sedative over a pain killer when they are in the emergency room complaining of pain.
To overcome endo we need doctors and members in the medical world who are willing to listen and empathize and work to understand the full complexity of how our illness impacts us and work to address the underlying root issue.
We also need to continue to learn from each other by sharing our successes. One day at a time.
There are a growing number of resources available by specialists and it is a new age where there are endo lifestyle coaches. All of these resources are helping women to navigate their way through the healing process.
- Endometriosis, A Key to Healing and Fertility Through Nutrition by Dian Shepperson Mills and Michael Vernon PhD
- Endometriosis, Ancient Disease, Ancient Treatments, Cameran Nezhat, Farr Nezhat
- Harvard Health, Women and Pain, Disparities in Experiences and Treatment by Laura Kiesel
- National Institute of Health, Treatments for Endometriosis