The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Endometriosis is a word that I had barely heard before I got diagnosed with it in 2018 in an emergency room. At the time, I had no idea that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), roughly 10% of women and girls struggle with endometriosis. This is only a rough estimate, as many people will go their whole lives without even realizing that they have endometriosis. This is because society has normalized intense and painful periods to the extent that people think that nothing is wrong. The only reason my endo was caught was because I had other health issues going on and they wanted to rule it out. That should not be the norm for how endo is discovered though, just like it should not be the norm for people to have excruciating periods.
You might be asking yourself, what is endometriosis? Endometriosis is, “a disease where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus, causing pain and/or infertility.” This is a problem because even though the tissue has grown outside of the uterus, it bleeds the same way that regular uterine lining bleeds. This lining, however, does not have a way out of the body, which leads to health problems. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of endometriosis include painful periods, pain while having sex, pain while using the bathroom, excessive blood and infertility, as well as fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating or nausea during periods.
Unfortunately, to a lot of women, these symptoms sound normal when it comes to having a period. We have been conditioned by society to believe that having a period should be painful and should cause a variety of health concerns, and we are then expected to just get over that pain and move along with our daily lives. This is one of the many pitfalls that endometriosis has because it is a disease that does not affect cis men.
Another barrier is that endometriosis research is poorly funded, if done at all. According to the University of Michigan, “major research gaps and unmet needs of women with endometriosis have stalled progress in treatment.” Unfortunately, this is an all too common issue when dealing with diseases that don’t affect cis men.
There are still major inequities in our health care system that lead to women, trans men and many non-binary people being written off as “overdramatic” or “too emotional” for their pain to be valid. This has led to endometriosis, along with many other diseases, to be thrown to the backburner in research.
On top of that, endometriosis is not frequently talked about in any setting, including the healthcare world, so people frequently don’t know what it is. This leads to people being unable to properly identify their options or advocate for themselves.
In this day and age, information is crucial, and knowledge is power. It is more likely than not that either you or someone you know is affected by endometriosis. If any of the information that I have provided above sounds like you, please consider seeking medical advice, because you do not deserve to be in pain. Even if it does not sound like you, consider starting the conversation about endo with friends or family that do struggle with pain during their periods, because they might be one of the millions of people who are suffering with endometriosis and don’t even know it.