1 in 10 women have Endometriosis. Around 1.5 million women in the UK are living with Endometriosis. Endometriosis is a chronic condition.
‘Chronic’ is defined as persisting for a long time or constantly recurring. There is no cure for Endometriosis and very limited treatment options:
Hormone treatments such as contraceptive medication (Combined pill, Depo Provera injection, Mirena coil, IUD implant)
Hormone Treatments such as Zoladex, starves the body of oestrogen which places the body in a temporary menopausal state. A lack of oestrogen causes periods to cease altogether. Once the injections are stopped, the ovaries will switch back on and periods return to normal.
These hormone treatments are not appropriate for a woman who is trying to conceive. While she’s trying for a baby, the Endometriosis will run unchecked, causing whatever damage. It could be months before she conceives, meaning months of discomfort/pain.
Another treatment option for women with Endometriosis is pain management. By using a hot water bottle, heating pad or hot bath, pain can be reduced. Mild pain can be treated with paracetamol or ibuprofen. TENS Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator machine The electrical pulses are thought to work by either blocking the pain messages as they travel through the nerves or by helping the body produce endorphins which are natural pain-fighters. Some women have stated that Acupuncture has helped relieve their symptoms during a flare up.
Women may be offered the opportunity to have a Laparoscopy, which is a less invasive procedure usually used by doctors to diagnose Endometriosis and also, to treat adhesions and endometrial tissue outside the womb. This procedure provides some relief of symptoms but can recur in time and so some women have to have several of these throughout their lives.
Hysterectomy refers to the removal of a woman’s womb. Oopherectomy is the removal of both ovaries. Both are defined as radical surgeries and are irreversible. If a woman decides on a hysterectomy but opts to keep her ovaries the chance of Endometriosis returning is increased.
These radical surgeries are rarely offered to younger women or women without children. This is because the woman is expected to exhaust every option if wanting a child.
“No gynaecologist will agree to giving your a hysterectomy because you are 25 years old and don’t have any children. There are other things we can try and a hysterectomy is a final option.”
So I can’t get pregnant because I’m in pain all the time, and have Endometriosis. You tell me to consider IVF. Due to pain, I work part-time. I don’t qualify for NHS funding for IVF because my husband has children from a previous marriage. No children, no hysterectomy. So I’m stuck with the pain until I can either afford IVF and conceive or reach an age that is acceptable for me to have a full hysterectomy?
How is this acceptable?
Endometriosis and symptoms in each woman is very different, the efficiency of treatments cannot be measured. There can be no generalised treatment for women with Endometriosis.
Believe it or not- I have had a gynaecologist tell that if I get pregnant it will ‘sort out’ my Endometriosis and pain.
Is it right to pressure a woman into having a baby sooner? Shouldn’t other options be explored?
When a woman has tried all the pain management options, and the specialist suggests surgery, she will take it, because she trusts the doctor will make the right call.
Is surgery scary? Yes.
Do I have the luxury of being scared? No. I need this surgery because I can’t manage my pain anymore.
Given the ultimatum: Either agree to this treatment (which isn’t guaranteed to work) or suffer with the pain.
Are we compromising our health because there are only limited treatment options?
Endometrial tissue/scarring cannot be seen on an x-ray, ultrasound scan or blood test. Misdiagnosis is often common in a woman’s journey for answers, as symptoms are similar to other health problems. Doctors may end up treating a woman for the wrong illness, e.g. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. There is no way of identifying Endometriosis without laparoscopy. So without this surgery, without the correct diagnosis, a woman could experience years of suffering with pain, heavy periods, fatigue etc.
Although, doctors bear in mind that if the mother has endometriosis, it is likely for the daughter to have it also- it can be hereditary.