No, menstruation should’nt hurt this much
Intense cramps, stomach issues and bloating, pain radiating down the legs, fatigue and irregular menstruation? It could be endometriosis.
Too many grow up thinking that menstruation should be painful. Too many take sick days, pop painkillers like tic tacs, and grit their teeth when the pain spikes. It perhaps isn’t so strange, when nurses at school, general physicians and gynecologists dismiss both girls and women who seek help to get rid of painful menstruation, or other obscure ailments.
It’s perhaps not so strange that it takes an average of seven years before you are diagnosed with endometriosis; the advice and help given is "combine Ibux and Paracet, it’ll probably pass", or a well meaning "it’s completely normal to experience pain while menstruating».
Endometriosis is a disease that affects 1 in 10 women, which in Norway is well over 250 000 individuals. The disease also occur in transgender and non-binary people. Many believe that the disease can have large dark numbers, as the diagnosis time is on average seven years.
Quickly explained, one can say that endometriosis is a chronic disease, which can affect the whole body. When tissue similar to the lining of the uterus occurs elsewhere in the body, one has endometriosis. The tissue isn’t the same as the endometrial tissue, ie. the endometrium, although many have long believed this. Differentiating between tissue types is important, especially because many have previously been told that removing the uterus could cure endometriosis. This isn’t true for endometriosis, but rather for cousins' disease; adenomyosis. In those with adenomyosis, it is correct to say that the tissue that is normally inside the uterus begins to grow out and into the muscle wall of the uterus itself.
Read more about adenomyosis here.
It is common to find endometriosis tissue in the pelvis, around the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the outside of the uterus, and in the area between the uterus and rectum. Endometriosis can also be found on the intestines, bladder and other places in the body. The symptoms of endometriosis are often pain during menstruation, ovulation and intercourse. It can also lead to pain in the stomach and intestines which can also occur independent of menstruation. In addition, one can experience bloating, fatigue, and heavier bleeding during menstruation.
Want to learn more about endometriosis? Check out this carefully developed text written by the Endometriosis Association, in collaboration with chief physician at OUS Ullevål, Jenny Alvirovic.
Pain shouldn’t be normalized
There are countless examples where young women's pain are normalized and written off. After years of suffering, many are fortunately taken more seriously, and get a proper examination. When endometriosis is detected, it can result in relief and a feeling of "not being a hypochondriac after all". That isn’t how it should be. Everyone who reports pain and suffering should be taken seriously and examined.
Detecting endometriosis early is valuable. Both for the individual who is struggling with the disease, as untreated endometriosis can lead to infertility, and a significant reduction in quality of life, but also for society in general. If the disease isn’t given the opportunity to develop in secret, more people will be able to work longer and more efficiently. It benefits everyone.
Had more people known about endometriosis, both the treatment offer and the diagnosis time we see in Norway today would probably have been significantly improved. So what can you do? Read about endometriosis, talk about endometriosis, and share information about endometriosis with your general physician and gynecologist. Refer people to the Endometriosis Association, and spread knowledge. Together we can shed on this patient group, and contribute to a better life for many suffering people.
The Endometriosis Association is a small association, but with a nationwide presence, run by volunteers. The association works spread information and awareness, with the goal to ensure a better treatment offer and a reduced diagnosis time for everyone with endometriosis.