5 Lies We Tell Ourselves About Endometriosis

Learn about common excuses women make to avoid seeking medical attention for what could be endometriosis.

Medically reviewed in April 2021

An estimated 176 million women worldwide are living with endometriosis, a condition where endometrial-like tissue grows outside the uterus, causing severe menstrual cramps, heavy periods, lower back pain, and fatigue. Endometriosis has the power to significantly interfere with a woman’s everyday life, yet it can take up to 10 years to get definitively diagnosed with endometriosis. Below are five lies we tell ourselves about endometriosis to avoid seeking medical attention.

1. “This pain is just a normal part of being a woman.”
This is one of the most common excuses women make to themselves. Pain that interferes with quality of life is not normal. Over 50 percent of women experience painful periods, but pain that severely impacts daily life is not okay. While most women experience endometriosis-related pelvic pain right before and during their periods, some can suffer from constant and debilitating pain that leaves them bedridden for days. Women have described endometriosis pain as “the worst pain of their lives” or “more painful than giving birth.” When your relationships, career, and sense of self start suffering, it’s time to have a discussion with your gynecologist.

2. “Sometimes, my periods are heavy and abnormal. It happens.”
Heavy menstrual flow may be no cause for alarm, but 50 percent of women have an underlying condition responsible for their heavy periods. Irregular bleeding and heavy menstruation, even occasional in nature, are common symptoms of endometriosis. No two women experience endometriosis the same way, so while heavy periods may not be a big deal in one woman, they may indicate abnormalities in another.

3. “Most of my close female relatives have lived with difficult periods their entire lives.”
Reasons behind endometriosis are very complex and while scientists aren’t exactly sure what causes the disorder, many of them agree that genetics play an important role in its development. Women who have a close female relative with endometriosis are five to seven times more likely to have it themselves. If you are suffering from what could be endometriosis symptoms (like heavy periods and unbearable menstrual cramps), don’t just assume they are a normal part of womanhood.

4. “It’s fine if sex with my partner is sometimes uncomfortable and painful for me.”
Painful sex is not fine. Over 50 percent of women with endometriosis experience uncomfortable and painful sexual intercourse with their partners, so it’s safe to assume they will choose to avoid it. Every woman living with endometriosis feels this type of pain differently. It can be deep or superficial and appear during sex or afterwards. Pain and discomfort with sex can impact the intimacy we share with our partners and the quality of our sexual relationships. If you are experiencing any kind of pain or discomfort with sex, talk with your gynecologist about it.

5. “My symptoms aren’t debilitating, so I don’t need to see a gynecologist.”
Endometriosis has four stages and there is little connection between the stage of endometriosis and severity of symptoms. Minimal endometriosis may cause agonizing period cramps, irregular bleeding, and painful bowel movements while severe endometriosis may cause little or no symptoms at all. You don’t have to be bedridden or fainting from excruciating period pain for endometriosis to be severe.

It’s time to stop making excuses for endometriosis and take back control of your life. Early diagnosis is important to endometriosis management and treatment, and there is a strong and supportive community of medical professional who are there to guide you in the right direction. Talk with your gynecologist about any endometriosis questions or concerns you may have, even if you feel they’re unrelated.

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