By Sarah Harris
March celebrates not only International Women’s Day but also Endometriosis Awareness week. Endometriosis is a condition in which the tissue that usually lines the uterus starts to grow outside the uterus causing a whole bunch of problems such as infrequent and heavy bleeding, intense pain, back and leg problems and in a lot of cases even infertility. I was diagnosed with the condition a few weeks in to the first term of the new academic year. The thing is, the journey towards my diagnosis started years before the problem was identified hence why I asked Gair Rhydd if I could write an article on the matter. The purpose of this article is more to help people identify when something’s wrong than to write a couple of detailed paragraphs about how crappy the condition is. I’m sure by now, whether you go through them or not, periods suck. The average age most girls start menstruating in 12 years old. I guess they forget to mention in all the talks you get about hitting puberty how painful those few days a month can be. Regardless, most people get used to it after a while and some lucky few barely even feel the difference when they’re menstruating. I went to a girl’s only school for 5 years and every other day there would be a girl sat in the corner clenching a hot water bottle and looking like she wanted to kill us all. You get the point – periods are not fun.
But how do we know when the pain isn’t normal? How do we know when the cramps you’re suffering from are more than just cramps? By the time I was 14, I was missing a few days of school each month due to cramps. I visited the doctors almost yearly to ask them if there was something that I could do about the pain and pretty much every single one sent me home and told me to take painkillers when it got bad. 2 months before my diagnosis, I started my period thinking it was normal. However, after 2 weeks when the bleeding was still heavy and hadn’t ended, I went to see my GP who told me to come back again in a week if the bleeding continued. I went to see my GP 5 more times after that until he sent me to see a Gynaecologist through A&E. I didn’t know much about Endometriosis about this point and the doctor wasn’t much help either. As most people would, I took to the internet and found that in the UK, 1 in 10 women woman suffer from the disease and 1 in 3 suffer from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Symptoms of both involve intense cramps, heavy bleeding, fatigue and in some cases, pain during sex. I know a lot of those sound like a normal period but severe pain at any point during your cycle is not normal.
If you do have any of these symptoms or you even have an inkling that something’s not right then I urge you to go see a doctor! I know a lot of people will tell you that the intense pain you may feel during your period is normal but if it’s causing you enough pain to the point where you’re missing lectures or seminars it’s not. Similarly, if your bleeding is still heavy after a week, see a doctor. If you’re bleeding clots or bleeding in between your period, see a doctor. If it’s bearable but still bothering you a little, then try a hot water bottle or pain killers, they can do wonders for some people!
Identifying problems when it comes to all the malarkey that happens down below is important as they can have huge impacts in the long term! And the faster you identify them, the less likely it is to become more serious!