What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is more than just a painful period. Endometriosis (or ‘endo’ for short) is a chronic disease that people with a uterus can have and can be very painful. 

How can endometriosis impact your health?

Endometriosis is a disease that causes tissue to grow in the lining of the uterus (or the endometrium) and other parts of the body where it isn’t supposed to. This can lead to extremely heavy and/or painful periods, and difficulty getting pregnant. 

It’s worth noting that severe period pain doesn’t always mean that you have endometriosis. Period pain can also occur because of hormone imbalances, STI’s, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, other chronic illnesses, stress and diet. 

Why is it so hard to get diagnosed with Endo? 

Getting a diagnosis can be tricky, as the only way to know for sure whether you have endo is to have surgery, usually a laparoscopy.

It takes an average of 6.5 years for endo to be diagnosed. This means that there are lots of people who menstruate who have no idea that endometriosis is the cause of their extremely difficult periods.

Even now, there is a serious lack of knowledge surrounding endo in doctors and patients. Women are often told that period pain is normal — which it definitely isn’t. Many women have reported turning up to hospital with agonising period pain, only to be told to ‘use a hot water bottle’ or ‘take some ibuprofen’. 

There is no cure for endometriosis, however, surgery to remove excess tissue and growths can help make symptoms much more manageable. 

What are the main symptoms of Endometriosis? 

Along with intense period cramps, other symptoms that people with endo can experience include:

  • Decreased fertility 
  • Cramping or abdominal pain, even when you don’t have your period
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Back or thigh pain 
  • Pain during sex 
  • Pain when going to the toilet 
  • Fatigue 
  • Bloating 

A person’s symptoms can vary throughout their life: they may have really bad pain every period or some periods may be worse than others, or perhaps during their twenties may be when the disease is at its worst.

If you think that you have endo and your doctor isn’t taking you seriously — find another doctor or keep going back. Your pain is important and your health deserves to be taken seriously. 


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What should I do if I think I might have Endometriosis?
  • See your doctor
    For a mild case of endo, your doctor will prescribe you with painkillers that are designed to treat period pain and that are stronger than over the counter pain meds like Panadol and Nurofen. This is usually the first step in your treatment journey.
  • Use heat packs to reduce pain
    While it’s not a cure all, a heat pack can give a little bit of relief to sore crampy muscles.
  • Eat well
    Eating well around the time of your period by avoiding greasy foods and eating fresh food that are high in nutrients (and dark chocolate!) can help too. However, it’s important to know that diet and stress management alone cannot ‘cure’ your endo, as there is no cure. Thankfully, there are still steps we can take that may alleviate pain.
  • Consider birth control
    Some doctors might also prescribe the pill or other forms of birth control to manage your endo symptoms, but this is not always helpful. Talk with your doctor to see if this method will help you.
  • Surgery
    The next option for endo is surgery to remove some of the overgrown tissue, which for a lot of people can help immensely.For really serious cases of endo, some people make the choice to have a hysterectomy, which is surgery to remove a person’s uterus. This is a big decision, as it means that you can no longer get pregnant in the future.
Connect with other people’s stories of life with Endo

Many famous (and non famous) people have shared their stories of living with chronic endo pain, including Chloe Hayden, Bindi Irwin and Lena Dunham, to name a few. Reading about other people’s experience can sometimes be helpful if you’re feeling helpless or alone in your diagnosis (or lack thereof).  

Bridget Hustwaite’s @endogram also has some great resources and information if you want to learn more about living with endo. 

Where to get help

Remember that you shouldn’t have to push through the pain, you can and should seek treatment and rest. 

  • Family Planning Alliance Australia has links to sexual health clinics around the country. Visiting a sexual health clinic is really useful if you want to talk to someone face-to-face about your body and your options
  • Check out our post on going to the doctor on your own if you don’t feel comfortable going with a parent. They will be able to assist.
  • Endometriosis can impact your mental health. If you need to speak to someone urgently, you can call Kids Help Line or Lifeline.

Need someone to talk to? Free, confidential support is available.

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