What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is when the uterine lining that is found inside the womb grows outside of the uterus and onto other parts of the body. Every month when a woman goes through her menstrual cycle, her body rids itself of the lining if she has not conceived. As the body prepares to shed this lining it thickens, which means wherever else the endometrium has grown, the body is also preparing to try and shed that lining except there is nowhere for it to go. I think that this may contribute to endo-belly.
What is Endo-Belly?
Well this was actually one of the first symptoms I started to notice. I would bloat, like a lot and I am not talking about a little bloating like gas, I am talking about looking like six -months pregnant kind of bloating. I couldn’t fit into my size 5 pants, and that’s that size 5 is still somewhat big. There are still many claims about endo-belly being related to food allergies like gluten, but I already tried going gluten free. I have a nut allergy and am also lactose intolerant so my diet is already pretty strict, through it all I never experience this kind of bloating. Every month when I get my period, I go from a 26-inch waist to about 32. I am so sensitive in the belly area and feel like I am full, it’s really an uncomfortable feeling and hard to describe.
What are the symptoms of Endometriosis?
There aren’t many symptoms or signs that can tell you if you have endometriosis but from personal experience these were my symptoms and they got progressively worse every month:
- One week before my period I would start to bloat and would get bigger as my period approached.
- Horrible back aches that usually left my body shaking from the pain. Sometimes I’d throw up.
- Extremely heavy periods, to the point I could no longer wear tampons and changed pads about 5-6 times a day.
- Tampons, my body started to reject them.
- A lot of clots both blood and white blood cells (like white tissue).
- Painful bowel movements.
- Bleeding during intercourse or in between periods.
- Periods that are debilitating.
- And my favorite, infertility.
How is endometriosis diagnosed?
Honestly, they say the only way is through a laparoscopic surgery or at least that is what my doctor told me but after a lot of research and connecting with other people, I have found that there are MRI’s that can detect uterine growths in other areas of the body. If you believe that you have symptoms and your doctor dismisses them, I urge you to see another doctor ASAP! You are not alone! My doctor made me feel like I am living with something that is completely normal but the pain is NOT normal. I am sure you have asked your friends how their periods are and they don’t compare. You shouldn’t feel like something is trying to claw its way out of your body, you deserve understanding and compassion. Find yourself a new doctor if your doctor disregards your feelings – emotional or physically.
After three years of heavy periods and horrible symptoms my doctor finally said let’s do this laparoscopic procedure in August 2019 – after many other invasive and uncomfortable exams – that is when we discovered I have stage three endometriosis, possibly four. Endometriosis is also ranked on a point scale – which my doctor failed to do. I have inserted a photo from HealthAm with the points for each stage.
The four stages of Endometriosis:
Information taken from WebMD*.
Based on the results, the condition is ranked in one of four stages:
- Stage 1 or minimal: There a few small implants or small wounds or lesions. They may be found on your organs or the tissue lining your pelvis or abdomen. There’s little to no scar tissue.
- Stage 2 or mild: There are more implants than in stage 1. They’re also deeper in the tissue, and there may be some scar tissue.
- Stage 3 or moderate: There are many deep implants. You may also have small cysts on one or both ovaries, and thick bands of scar tissue called adhesions.
- Stage 4 or severe: This is the most widespread. You have many deep implants and thick adhesions. There are also large cysts on one or both ovaries.
What to do next?
Educate yourself. Your friends. Your loved ones. Everyone that you interact with. It’s OK to be scared to talk about it at first, it’s normal. I am still afraid but slowly I am coming out of my shell. Of all things though, surround yourself with a strong support system… you will need it. I am only in the second month of my journey and I want to share what I go through and what treatments I am using. I want to spread awareness and so should you. Join groups, seek therapy, do things that fill your heart with happiness because it might feel like the sky is falling but really it’s just preparing for you to shine.