Cramps or endo?
Although our periods definitely have a pretty magical, unifying, sisterhood quality that makes us feel connected to the moon and our best friends, or that girl at work you are totally in sync with, we are all still aware that at least once in a while, it sucks. Or actually, for some, it might feel like magic but more like the kind you’d see in the movie The Craft and it’s not exactly a coven you’d have any interest in being a part of. Depending on how dark those days surrounding your menstrual cycle get for you, it could be possible you’re dealing with more than just cramps.
Recently, women like Julianne Hough and Lena Dunham have stepped forward and said how their period pain was too much, excruciating, and how they finally realized that it wasn’t just cramps, it was endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a real thing that apparently affects 1 in 10 women but because we are told our whole lives that periods hurt, we just deal with it. We go to work, we attend meetings, we run to the bathroom and buckle over in pain and then tighten our ponytails and get back to work— which first of all definitely proves that females are badasses, but really, we shouldn’t have to live like that. More importantly, endometriosis can have an effect on your fertility, and you know we aren’t okay with that.
So, what are some signs I should be looking for?
Well, endo is hard to diagnose without eliminating a few other possibilities. However, there are definitely some symptoms that could make it worth a visit with your doctor.
- It’s not just pain or bad cramps. While not everyone who has endo experiences severe cramps, it is the most notable symptom. This isn’t the kind of thing where a heating pad, some advil, and a solid day of movies, chocolate, and sleep does the trick. This is pain that impacts your life. You can’t meet up with friends, you are calling into work “sick” It lasts for days and over the counter meds don’t do enough. This is big. If you have any doubt, then this probably isn’t a symptom you have—you’d know.
- You might have some intestinal issues. This is part of why you often think or feel like you’re ill so often, it’s impacting your digestion.
- Excessive bleeding in the form of a heavy flow or bleeding in between cycles could be a sign of endo. Pay attention if you start noticing your period being “irregular” or heavy.
- Infertility is another red flag. Unfortunately, this condition affects your ovary production and if you’ve been trying to get pregnant for over a year, this might be a symptom to note.
I talked to my doctor, and I have Endo. What now?
So while most treatments for endometriosis are similar to treating normal menstrual cramps (like popping your doctor approved, over the counter painkillers at the first sign of symptoms) things start to change when trying to conceive. For example, taking birth control is a way of managing the hormones that cause some of the symptoms of endometriosis but taking birth control is not the best way to harvest eggs or conceive naturally, it’s actually the opposite of what you want to do.
What does this have to do with egg freezing?
As for freezing eggs (because we know you were wondering when we’d bring that up) freezing your eggs in an early stage of endometriosis gives you a little bit of an edge when it comes to being able to retrieve healthy eggs and fertilize them later. This is because as endo develops, not only can pain increase but factors like cysts become more likely. Not to mention part of having endometriosis means that your ovaries are less effective at producing eggs which also presents some hurdles.
There are other options, like ovary stimulation, which can also help but again, it’s best to utilize treatments like this before the condition progresses too far.
Also don’t worry, if you think you have endo it doesn’t mean you can’t have kids, though it might mean it could take a while and it might mean options like injections or egg freezing could enter the picture to help up your odds. We have a great team of doctors and fertility specialists who can help answer any questions you might have and get you on track towards planning for a family.