Endometriosis Awareness Month by Sophie Christie

In light of our International Women’s Day event earlier this month, I find myself empowered to shed light on a prevalent but often misunderstood health condition affecting millions of women across the UK: Endometriosis. 

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a chronic and often debilitating condition affecting millions of women worldwide, with a significant impact on their quality of life. It occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (endometrium) grows outside the womb, commonly affecting the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the lining the pelvis, as well as other organs in the body. This misplaced tissue responds to the menstrual cycle in the same way as the tissue inside the uterus, causing inflammation, pain, and the formation of scar tissue.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The symptoms of endometriosis can vary widely among individuals but most commonly include chronic pelvic pain, painful periods (dysmenorrhea), heavy menstrual bleeding, increased urination, fatigue, and infertility.  In the UK, it is estimated that around 1.5 million women are currently living with this condition, with an average diagnosis time of 7.5 years from the onset of symptoms. However, these symptoms are often mistaken for other conditions, leading to further delays in diagnosis.

As a law student, I understand firsthand that managing the symptoms of endometriosis whilst balancing academic responsibilities can be incredibly challenging. The unpredictable nature of the condition, with flare-ups and periods of intense pain, can disrupt study schedules and impact overall academic/work performance.

Navigating Treatment Options

It is important to understand that there is currently no cure for endometriosis. Any treatment provided will aim to manage symptoms and improve quality of life. This can include pain management through medication, hormone therapy to regulate the menstrual cycle, and surgery to remove endometrial tissue and scar tissue. However, finding the right treatment approach can be a complex process, requiring careful consideration of individual symptoms and preferences, and often comes with its own array of horrible side effects. 

As a student, I understand that managing appointments, referrals, and treatment plans while juggling academic commitments can be daunting and difficult to say the least. This is why it is essential to communicate your condition to your workplace or educational institution, which will enable them to provide you with the necessary support tailored to your needs.

Raising Awareness and Stopping the Stigma

For generations, there has been an enduring stigma surrounding discussions of women’s healthcare, which has often been dismissed as a ‘gross’ and taboo topic. This societal perception has contributed to a culture of silence and discomfort surrounding important issues such as menstrual health, reproductive care, and gynaecological concerns. Therefore, it is crucial to break this cycle of stigma and encourage open dialogue about women’s health. By normalising conversations about these topics, we not only empower women to take control of their own health but also create a supportive environment where individuals feel comfortable seeking the information, support, and resources they require. Moreover, by sharing our own experiences and speaking up about women’s healthcare, we can help dismantle outdated stereotypes and pave the way for greater awareness, education, and advocacy for women’s health issues. On a final note, it is important to remember that women’s health concerns, including those related to reproductive health, are normal bodily functions, and considering this any differently would be equivalent to stigmatising other innate aspects of human biology.

For more information visit – https://www.endometriosis-uk.org