Health Check: are painful periods normal?
Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue similar to the lining the endometrium (womb), grows outside of the womb. It can grow on the ovaries, bowel, and in some rare cases has even been found outside of the pelvis such as the lungs. The hormones that trigger a period cause bleeding at these sites of implanted endometrial tissue, and this causes pain.
Endometriosis usually causes period pain to start earlier and last longer than what is commonly experienced with menstruation. Sometimes the pain doesn’t go away when the period ends. Women with endometriosis can describe pain at the the time of ovulation, or pain with sex. Another problem associated with endometriosis is infertility.
It is a common condition affecting 16% to 61% of women of reproductive age experiencing symptoms. An estimated 100 million women worldwide suffer from endometriosis.
Women themselves may be unaware of endometriosis, or think their pain is normal. Many tend to tolerate the pain, which is can also occur in teenagers and young adults.
Although the exact cause of endometriosis is unknown, there are a number of theories such as retrograde (opposite to the intended direction) flow of endometrial tissue out of the womb through the fallopian tubes, and this tissue can implant in the pelvic cavity in locations outside of the womb.
The way nerves interpret pain in the pelvis also plays a role. It is an unusual disease in that some women can have a lot of endometriosis and have very few symptoms, whereas others can have only a small amount of disease and suffer from quite severe symptoms.
Affected girls and women often face negative impacts on their education or careers. There may be reduced productiveness at work or study as a result of the pain and discomfort caused by endometriosis.
Treatment includes hormonal tablets such as the oral contraceptive pill. The progestogen implant or intrauterine device, are also helpful for some in reduction of pain with periods. But these treatments don’t work for everyone.
How will I know if I have endometriosis?
Diagnosis of endometriosis can only be made via keyhole surgery. If it is seen surgically, and removed, women often have an improvement in their symptoms. But symptoms can return. Although it is not a deadly disease, the disruption it causes to women and society can be distressing – and as it is chronic, persisting throughout the woman’s menstrual life.
One study found an average delay of nearly four years before women with endometriosis sought medical help for their symptoms, and this delay brings about much anxiety and distress over the uncertainty of their own condition and how it can be resolved.
Many women are told their period pain is normal, but at keyhole surgery a number of these women with pelvic pain actually have endometriosis. However, making a decision to pursue surgery is a difficult one, as this carries minor risks such as bladder, bowel and vessel injury as well as anaesthetic risks. Care for women needs to be individualised in terms of whether the risks of surgery outweigh the symptoms experienced.
There are a number of different conditions which contribute to period pain. These include pain from the intestines, bladder and kidney, muscles and bones (including hip and back pain). There are also conditions that cause pain from the nerves in the pelvis and back.
Psychological conditions can also be responsible for or contribute to pelvic and period pain.
What can Naturopathy do to help?
Diagnosis of endometriosis can only be made via keyhole surgery. If it is seen surgically, and
If you have severe period pain affecting your school, work, or quality of life then you should seek help, by first consulting your GP.
Once diagnosed Naturopathy can help in many ways, by treating the pain and discomfort, supporting and preserving fertility and assist with healing post-op. To see how you can benefit, contact me here, for a chat. Lindsay x
Original article – Health Check: are painful periods normal?
February 6, 2017. The Conversation – Rebecca Deans