‘That endo thing’ AKA endometriosis

Endometriosis New Zealand state that roughly 1 in 10 females in Aotearoa are unlucky enough to experience living with endometriosis. So, what is it? Endometriosis is an inflammatory disease that occurs in women mainly in their reproductive age. Tissue similar to the lining of the uterus is found in places outside of the uterus, such as on the pelvis, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder and bowel.

Pretty much, endo causes a cluster-fuck of horrible symptoms. At times, these symptoms can feel impossible to navigate as a young woman. Especially when you are a university student who is broke AF, stressed AF and alcoholic AF.  As a third-year university student who has gotten through the last few years while living with the daily struggles between university commitments and endometriosis pain, I have racked up a series of tips for other students who might be experiencing a similar struggle.

 

“Approximately 176 million women in the world are living with endometriosis” (NZ Endo)

 

 

Most common symptoms of endo can include:

  • Abnormal periods, usually severely painful (dysmenorrhoea)
  • Pain during sex (dyspareunia)
  • Bowel problems (a crook stomach after 10 Smirnoff RTDs doesn’t count)
  • Bladder issues (more than just breaking the seal on a big night)
  • Infertility / subfertility

Less talked about symptoms:

  • Lower back pain
  • Pelvic pain
  • Tiredness and low energy (probably hard to distinguish at times from uni stress)
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Pain at other times in the menstrual cycle

 

“Discomfort with periods is often normal, distress is never normal” (NZ Endo)

 

What to do if you think you might have endo?

Diagnosis

The average diagnoses time internationally of endometriosis is over eight years. This is for a variety of reasons, the most common being either a lack of resources or gynaecologists being know-it-all pricks. You are going to need to be the bo$-a$ bitch that you know you are and stick up for yourself if you think that you have endo! At the end of the day, you are the expert of your own body and need to make sure that you receive the care you need and deserve by going to see the GP or a gynaecologist.

Treatment

There a couple of different routes which can be taken if the doctor also thinks that you may have endo. It is important to make informed decisions about treatment, so make sure you do some research before accepting any form of treatment.

Surgical intervention – keyhole surgery to attempt to remove the endometriosis and adhesions.  

Hormonal treatment – the Mirena IUD or contraceptive pills are often recommended by gynaecologists .

Lifestyle change – diet, exercise, reducing stress. All that good stuff that you have heard from your mum before about quittin’ Maccas and becoming fitspo but on a serious level.

  • Some doctors and gynaecologists suggest a combination of all the above

Multi-disciplinary approach
Heaps of research suggests that a multi-disciplinary approach is the most effective. Over my time at uni, I have regularly seen a fantastic GP, but have also at times enlisted the help of a gynaecologist, a counsellor, a nutritionist and a physiotherapist. Some of these services you can access for free or at a reduced cost at the UC Health Centre. It might seem expensive at times for the ones that you cannot access at a discounted rate, but it is completely worth it, as you are getting comprehensive care and feel partly in control over your pain.

Get yourself a medical KIT!
Go to the UC Health Centre and talk to a GP about creating a kit which you can keep partly at home and partly in your uni bag. This kit should at the minimum have anti-inflammatories and decent pain relief. You could also have medication for anti-nausea, hormonal migraines, bowel issues or bladder issues. PRO TIP: Anti-inflammatories via the back door (suppository form) are a quick way to get medication into your system during severe pain.

Support networks

Living with endo can be a lonely ride, make sure that you have a couple of people that you can vent to. If you don’t feel comfortable talking about such personal issues to friends or family, consider joining an endo support group, talking to the UC chaplains or a counsellor.

For more info check out Endometriosis New Zealand (https://nzendo.org.nz/) or Family Planning (https://www.familyplanning.org.nz/advice/periods/endometriosis)