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Endometriosis is a reproductive health condition where tissue similar to the kind that lines the inside of your uterus is found outside of your uterus, where it doesn’t belong. It affects more than 11% of  women between 15 and 44 years old, as well as trans and non-binary people with uteruses. That’s a little more than one out of every 10 people. 

Endometriosis can cause: 

  • extremely painful periods 
  • extremely heavy bleeding during periods
  • pain in your lower belly and back (pelvic pain)
  • pain or difficulty while peeing or pooping;
  • nausea 
  • pain during or after sex
  • difficulty getting pregnant 

Symptoms of endometriosis can be so intense that they can get in the way of your daily life.

Although awareness of endometriosis is increasing, it still remains widely misunderstood and underdiagnosed. There is also no cure for endometriosis — treatments include hormonal birth control or surgery to manage symptoms. 

This Endometriosis Awareness Month, let’s talk about its impact, the disparities that make it hard to get help, and what we can do about it. 

Disparities in endometriosis and its impacts:  

Access to high-quality health care can be really hard for people who have been historically marginalized by systemic racism, sexism, transphobia, ableism, and discrimination. This leads to delays in finding and treating endometriosis, which can take more than a decade to diagnose. 

Delays in diagnosis are often due to: 

  • ongoing stigma about periods 
  • normalization of painful periods 
  • lack of access to health care
  • getting misdiagnosed for something else, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or Crohn's disease

Endometriosis can make getting pregnant hard or impossible. And delays in getting treatment can lead to more health problems in the future. Because of limited treatment options, many people with endometriosis have turned to hysterectomy. Faster diagnosis and more treatment options can help prevent these outcomes. 

The importance of raising awareness: 

The more that people with endometriosis get properly diagnosed, the more support there will be for funding and research towards better diagnostic tools, treatments, and maybe even a cure. 

Scientists are working on developing tests that look at your period blood and urine to diagnose endometriosis. This could be helpful to make diagnosis easier, faster, and more accessible — especially to people and communities who face barriers to care due to systemic racism and discrimination. 

No one in pain should ever be told, “It’s just a bad period.” We can work together to end the stigma of reproductive health conditions, improve health care experiences, and provide better health outcomes for all, no matter what

If you think you have endometriosis, talk with a nurse or doctor like the ones at your nearest Planned Parenthood health center. Getting second opinions and seeking support from others with endometriosis can help. 

Tags: reproductivehealth, endometriosis, sexualandreproductivehealth

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