I had problems with endometriosis as early as my young teenage years, though I can not remember at what age it all began. I do remember it causing me a great deal of difficulties in high school. There were times when I would start my menstrual cycle at school and have to go home before school was out, due to the enormous amount of pain I was in. Over-the-counter pain medication would do very little to help the pain. Sometimes it was severe enough to cause me to double over in pain and often even literally cry. The pain would usually occur both in the abdominal area and in my lower back. When I had a bowel movement during this time, it was very painful as well. I had cramps a lot, but most of the pain seemed to be more than just cramps, though I had no idea exactly what was going on.
My parents did not have much money for doctor visits so they reserved going to the doctor for things that seemed absolutely necessary. So, for years I simply had to deal with the pain interfering with activities for at least a few days or so out of the month. I cancelled many plans and missed a lot of school days, and later in life work days, due the fact that I couldn’t do much more than lie in bed in pain.
At the age of 21, I finally had a job with insurance benefits, so I went to a gynecologist concerning the situation. The doctor told me I had symptoms of endometriosis. Endometriosis is a condition in which some of the endometrium tissue in the uterus (normally drained through the vagina during the menstrual cycle) escapes through the fallopian tubes and attaches itself to other parts of the body, such as the outer walls of the intestines, fallopian tubes, or ovaries. When the cycle begins, just the same as the tissue in the uterus swells, the endometrium material that has made its home elsewhere also swells, causing pain and bloating in its new location. For some women, this condition never causes any more than pain and discomfort, ranging from mild to severe. However, if left untreated, it does have the potential to cause serious medical conditions to develop, even possible cancer. A friend of mine had to have a rather extensive surgery because she had endometrium tissue on the outside walls of her intestines causing them to become, as she put it, “glued together.” The condition of her intestines was so severe, part of them had to be removed.
I was fortunate to not have such difficulties. My doctor explained to me that in order to determine for certain if endometriosis was indeed my problem, I would need to undergo a procedure called laparoscopy. This is an outpatient procedure during which the empty space in the abdominal region is inflated with a type of gas so a mini-camera called a laparoscope can be inserted and the outside of the abdominal organs can be viewed and examined. My doctor said if endometrium tissue was found where it should not be, it could be removed during the procedure, and there would be very little down-time needed for recovery. Ironically, he asked me if I was planning to start a family soon. (In a moment, I’ll get to the reason I said “ironically”.) He said that in many cases of endometriosis, the problem simply goes away after a woman has a child. I stated that I was not planning to try for my first pregnancy for another year or two. My husband and I were waiting until we saved back a little more money in our emergency funds. So, he scheduled an appointment for the laparoscopic procedure to be done.
Here’s the “ironic” part… Two days before my procedure was to be done, I found out I was pregnant. I was already pregnant at the time I visited the gynecologist and just didn’t know it yet. So I had to cancel the procedure. I occasionally tease my first born, telling her I should have named her Lucky Buck because not only could that procedure have endangered my pregnancy, I also fell off of a hoarse when I was 3 to 4 weeks pregnant and didn’t know it. Also, a few weeks earlier, I slipped on some water on the floor, fell and hurt my knee. I very well could have been already pregnant at that time. My daughter jokes that I was just trying real hard to get rid of her. Lol! NOT A CHANCE!!! She was not a mistake, just an early surprise. Anyway, as it turned out, the pain and bloating caused by the endometriosis (though I was never officially diagnosed) completely went away after I gave birth. Though it did return somewhat a couple of years later, after given birth to my second daughter it went away again and, now approaching my mid-forties, I have not had any more problems with it since. I simply have the usual discomfort and mild pain and bloating that naturally comes from being on your period.
If you experience problems with a lot of pain and/or bloating during your cycle, or at any time, you should discuss it with a gynecologist as soon as possible. For relief, during the meantime, any anti-inflammatory may help, but I personally recommend you try Midol or Pamprin. For me, Pamprin works best, especially for bloating. Drink lots of water, because water is a natural anti-inflammatory, as are some vegetables.
In addition, one recommendation I have often heard is applying a cold compress, though that does not work for me. The cold tends to cause my muscles to tense up too much, only adding to my discomfort. On the other hand, a heating pad has always given me some relief. You might want to research information on natural remedies such as herbs, though in this area I will not make any personal recommendations due to the fact that herbal remedies are not FDA regulated. If you are considering any natural remedies, be sure to do thorough research on it because some do have negative side effects that could be severe, especially in high doses. And, of course, talk to your doctor before beginning any kind of treatment.
For more information on endometriosis, here are a few websites you can visit.