Endometriosis is a common reproductive health condition that affects more than 5 million people in the U.S and can cause chronic pain, and in some cases, infertility.
Endometriosis occurs when tissue from the lining inside the uterus (the endometrium) grows outside of the uterus. The lining may grow on the bowel, ovaries, lining of the pelvic area, or other places within the body.
It is most often diagnosed in women in their 30s and 40s, although it can occur in anyone who has a uterus, including transgender, nonbinary, and intersex people.
The most common symptom is chronic pain, usually in the pelvic region, right before and during menstrual periods. Pain from endometriosis can range from barely noticeable to severe enough to prevent you from getting out of bed in the morning. Other symptoms can include: intestinal pain, spotting or bleeding between periods, pain during sex, and, in some cases, infertility. For many people who have endometriosis, birth control or other medicines can help manage chronic pain.
It’s important to know your body and recognize when you experience any changes. If you notice anything out of the ordinary — lumps, swelling, pain, spotting, or unusual discharge — talk to a doctor or nurse. It might be less serious than you imagine, but you should have it checked out.
There is a long history of the medical system disregarding the concerns and pain of women, especially women of color. It’s estimated that 1 in 10 people with a uterus suffer from endometriosis — yet many are undiagnosed or get diagnosed much later than they should. This is due to the idea that severe period pain is expected and should be tolerated, when actually it is debilitating for many people who have endometriosis.
If you think you might have endometriosis, you should talk with your health care provider or make an appointment with Planned Parenthood. As a leading reproductive health care provider, advocate, and educator, Planned Parenthood can help you get evaluated for endometriosis and manage your symptoms.