Black Women and Endometriosis

Break out the yellow! March is Endometriosis Awareness month. Although this condition affects 1 in 10 women, it’s important to create a conversation surrounding endometriosis and to become knowledgeable on the signs and symptoms. For black women, in particular, this is even more crucial to know and recognize whether that’s in yourself or in someone else.

  1. 1. What is Endometriosis

    Also known as “endo,” endometriosis is an inflammatory condition where the endometrial tissue (a tissue that’s structurally similar to the one that’s lining the uterus), grows outside of the uterus. Some common locations include the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, and the lining of your pelvis. During menstruation, the endometrial tissue would break down as usual but due to its abnormal location, it will have a harder time exiting the body. This results in severely painful periods.

  2. 2. What Are the Symptoms of Endometriosis

    According to Mayo Clinic, the usual symptoms and signs associated with Endometriosis include:

    - Painful periods (dysmenorrhea)

    This pain is felt primarily in the pelvic area and may extend to your lower back and abdomen. It may start before and last several days into 

    - Pain with intercourse

    - Pain with bowel movements or urination

    This symptom will most likely occur during menstruation.

    - Excessive bleeding

    Though this is about occasional heavy menstrual cycles, this may also include bleeding in between periods.

    - Infertility

    - Other signs and symptoms

    Some additional ones to look out for during menstruation include fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating or nausea.

     

    An important reminder: severe pain is not the only indicator for this condition. In fact, those who have endometriosis might feel little to no pain compared to those who feel excruciating amounts of pain. 

  3. 3. Black Women in Relation to Endometriosis

    black woman with about half of her face showing

    Did you know that black women are less likely to get their endometriosis diagnosed? Most of the time, when symptoms and signs are brought to the doctor it will be waived off as a bad period. The average span of time between feeling symptoms and getting a proper diagnosis is 8-12 years. This number is much larger when focusing solely on black women.

    This lack of belief in black female patients boils down to the stereotypical ideology that black patients are less susceptible to pain, therefore being able to tolerate much higher pain levels. This creates a domino effect of little to no treatment for conditions, prolonged suffering, and confusion, and additional reproductive issues (e.g., infertility, miscarriages, death during or after labor, etc.).

     

    The image of a “Strong Black Woman” is nevertheless damaging and ostracizing those who are suffering from endometriosis and other physical, mental, and emotional conditions. Black women are human too and deserve to voice their concerns about their bodies and wellbeing.

  4. 4. What to do if You Suspect Endometriosis

    woman leaning on door looking out onto the city

    - Journal your symptoms for at least 3 cycles.

    Discuss your mood, your pain levels, the location of the pain and other symptoms that may take place. Be as detailed as possible. This will help both you and your doctor get on the same page to move forward. 

    - Ask your doctor/gynecologist important questions 

    Use these resources from Speak Endo and WebMD as guides to help you formulate the right questions.

    Remember, you know your body better than anyone else. Stick up for yourself when you feel that you and your symptoms are being brushed away. 

    - Hear other women’s stories

    There are a plethora of online and in-person communities that are dedicated to bringing awareness and building a platform around endometriosis. Follow pages, hashtags, and accounts. Community will help you to feel empowered and loved during this journey, especially if you’ve been diagnosed. Listed below are a few insightful platforms, influencers, and organizations:

    - Endo Black

    - The Endo Clinic Ills

    - The Endo Project

    - Endo Foundation

    - Endometriosis Association for resources like brochures, a body pain chart, and a symptom calendar

If you have been recently diagnosed, or have been battling this condition for years:

Your pain is valid. Let yourself the freedom to take in and process what’s going on. Don’t blame yourself or anyone. Though these may be the cards you’ve been dealt with, it doesn’t mean that your life is over. You will get through this. 

 

As the month of March is continuing, spread this knowledge to the ladies in your life. Especially black females. You never know whose life you may save by reaching out.