For decades, the pain that women have experienced from their periods has been discounted and disregarded. But finally, it looks like doctors are starting to take this seriously — in the U.K. at least.
New National Health Service guidelines in the U.K. are now urging medical professionals to take note of people who attest to intense period pain, as this could be a sign of endometriosis. These guidelines have noted that people wait on average seven and a half years for a diagnosis. Until then, most are forced to suffer in silence, relying on painkillers like ibuprofen and Paracetamol for slight relief, but leaving the source of the problem untreated.
The masking of the pain with medications could also be making it more difficult for doctors to warn people with uteruses that endometriosis could potentially impact fertility if left untreated for an extended period of time.
According to The Telegraph, the All Preliminary Group on Women’s Health reported that “40 percent of more than 2,600 women who gave evidence to it reported they had seen a doctor 10 times before being diagnosed.”
This new guidance is helping doctors be more vigilant in understanding how endometriosis manifests and affects patients as well as how to properly address patients’ needs and pain management. This includes considering how endometriosis symptoms can affect not just fertility, but everyday activities and that it can take a toll on the patient’s overall quality of life.
Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that lines the womb is found in other parts of the body. In this case, the lining can create a variety of health issues, covering other important body parts such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes or bladder. There can also be increased pain with everyday activities like sitting or exercise, but this can also impact how the individual can enjoy and participate in sex.
John Guillebaud, a professor at University College London, studies reproductive health. He remarked on the importance of not taking period pain lightly, according to Quartz, stating that “period cramping can be just as bad as having a heart attack. Men don’t get it and it hasn’t been given the centrality it should have. I do believe it’s something that should be taken care of, like anything else in medicine.”
For those who are unsure of whether or not they could have endometriosis, it’s important to take note of the symptoms of your period. Possible symptoms include chronic pelvic discomfort, extremely painful periods and pain during bowel movements or during or after sex. If you’re experiencing any of these, it’s important to reach out to a health care provider to confirm whether these are signs of endometriosis.