Putting up with periods is one of the many gifts Mother Nature offers to those born with a uterus. And for most of us womb-wielders, period pains are something we’ve probably dealt with at some stage. But how much pain is too much pain?
1 in 10 people with female reproductive systems suffer from endometriosis in the UK, a chronic condition in which cells similar to that of your uterine lining go wandering to other parts of your body to grow. Much like the lining of your uterus, these cells build up and eventually shed. However, unlike your period - this blood has no escape route, which can cause crippling pain and a long list of other endometriosis symptoms.
Yet considering so many suffer, it still takes a drastically long time to reach diagnosis. It’s about time we demolished that - don’t you think? We’ve put together the top symptoms of endometriosis, that you should know and keep an eye on.
Period pains on a whole other level:
Coming in at the top of the endometriosis symptom list has to be the razor blade period pains. Most of us experience period pain when we menstruate, but it’s a warning sign if your pains begin to get in the way of your everyday life. General period pains are caused by contractions in the uterus, but when it comes to endometriosis, the pain is caused by the endometrial-like cells that have grown outside of the uterus. In the same way the lining of the uterus builds up and sheds during your period, these cells break down and bleed too. But with no way out, this internal bleeding leads to inflammation, intense pain and a buildup of scar tissue. In cases of endometriosis, the crippling pains usually kick in in the few days leading up to your period's arrival, but can also make an unwelcome return during ovulation.
But how do you know if your pain isn’t ‘normal’? If your pains are preventing you from being able to go to school, work or just go about your daily life - don’t just put up with it - seek medical advice. Sure, periods are a pain, but they shouldn’t make you compromise on living the life you want.
Heavy flow down below:
Having an extra buildup of endometrial tissue can also lead to periods being heavier than ‘normal’, as there is more to shed during your period. With more to shed, the longer it will probably last too. A heavy period is defined as having to change your period products every hour or two, or experiencing regular leaking. If it also sticks around for more than seven days - this is also considered to be heavy. If your periods sound a lot like this, it’s best to seek medical advice to make sure everything’s in check.
Sex causes pain and not pleasure:
If you experience pain or discomfort during sex, this could also be a sign of endometriosis. The buildup of tissue can find its way to your pelvic region and continue to grow here, making sex much less pleasurable for you. Not to mention, if you’re regularly in a lot of pain, the probability of you desiring sex is much less likely.
Unfortunately, endometriosis can affect your chances of getting pregnant, yet there is not a specific answer as to why. Sex being too painful can be an obvious reason, but it is also thought that the extra scar tissue growth can create an inhospitable environment for conception to take place, by either damaging the fallopian tubes or the ovaries. Adhesions can also trap a travelling egg and prevent it from moving through the fallopian tube in the hope of being fertilised. According to research by the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics infertile women are 6 to 8 times more likely to have endometriosis than fertile women. However, this does not mean if you have endometriosis you can’t conceive - even in cases of severe endometriosis, natural conception is possible.
The “Endo Belly”
The infamous “endo belly” is the common term used by its sufferers which refers to the bloating, uncomfortable abdominal symptoms associated with endometriosis. The painful swelling can occur when endometrial tissue buildup causes inflammation in the abdomen, which can result in water retention and pain. This tissue can also cover or grow around the ovaries, when this happens the trapped blood can form cysts which may also cause bloating. Some top advice - comfy clothes are a must during a flare up.
That’s right, sometimes endometriosis doesn’t even let you go to the bathroom without causing some discomfort. The wandering endometrial cells can find their way to the surface of the bowel or even penetrate its wall. This can cause very similar symptoms to that of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), however they can be affected by your cycle often worsening in the days before your period.
If you’re suffering from painful periods, or any of the above symptoms - you might be suffering from endometriosis or an alternative health condition. The Hertility Health at-home hormone tests can help you get to the root of your period problems.
If you’re ready to start tracking your fertility, or have any questions about your overall female health, we’d love to help you out. Why not join our waitlist and we’ll let you know when we’re live so we can help guide you along the fertility path.