My Endometriosis Experience Reminds Me We Must Care For Young Girls
Nobody prepared me for life with endometriosis. Even my mother's explanation of what periods were, puzzled me. They were a mix between confusing, and quite comical. I remember her trying to sound very scientific and formal, while she talked about an “egg” she said women produced. Utterly confounded, I didn't know what questions to ask. She never mentioned the excruciating pain to come, nor the heavy bleeding.
My mother lived with normal, average periods. They were uncomfortable at most. This is why when my awful periods started, and I began suffering from what I know now were endometriosis symptoms, my mother sensed something wasn’t right. She rushed me to the hospital where doctors diagnosed me as suffering from “a bad period”. After three days of scary, invasive examinations, I was sent home, age 12, with a box of birth control. The experience was quite traumatic, for my mother but especially myself.
I now look back and feel for the little girl I once was. I wish my mother would have been allowed to be by my side when I was examined by the hands of strangers. Someone should have noticed that my diagnosis was lazy and over-simplistic. Ahead of me stood almost two decades of excruciating pain and suffering with no diagnosis, and no real support.
As an advocate, I believe it is important we ensure young girls get the appropriate care, and that their complaints are taken seriously, as early as possible.
There is no such thing as being too young for endometriosis
Endometriosis symptoms can appear from an early age. In fact, roughly 70 percent of women have experienced symptoms before reaching the age of 20.1,2 And the truth is the sooner it is diagnosed, the better the chances of ensuring a good quality of life.
Bad periods are, actually, not normal
All my life, I thought that the discomfort I experienced monthly was normal. The fact that I spent days in bed, twisting and turning in excruciating pain, was something even my mother knew was not normal. Yet for years, every doctor I saw shrugged their shoulders, told me I was unlucky, and handed me a prescription for painkillers.
Doctors must take any complaints about severe period pain seriously. Telling someone that their discomfort is down to "a bad period" is a blanket approach that not only dismisses their pain, it delays an essential diagnosis that could make all the difference to someone’s life.
Pregnancy will never be a cure
Pregnancy does not cure endometriosis. It merely puts symptoms on hold. When a doctor told me to get pregnant to deal with my own symptoms, I knew enough about the disease to argue back and let him know a baby was not a form of treatment.
When I think of a young girl being told to alter the life-plans she is yet to design for herself, to bring a child into this world, as a cure for a chronic disease, I shiver. Telling young women their best option is to become pregnant, not only puts an enormous pressure on anyone, it is ethically questionable.
We must provide young girls with a safe space to talk about their periods
Periods should be no taboo, nor should they be a quick, simplistic discussion. From a young age, girls must know what to expect, and what isn't OK.
They should feel confident that any irregularities or worrying symptoms will be taken seriously and checked out with care. Sadly, many health professionals still use patronizing tones when talking to young patients, minimizing their complaints way too often. Doctors need to become more clued up on how they speak and treat younger patients. The dismissive tones and blanket diagnoses must stop.
Whenever I imagine a young girl facing the difficulties, contradictory diagnoses, and dismissive comments I endured for years, my heart breaks a little. I wish someone would have spoken up for me, age twelve. I wish things would have been a tad easier, and less traumatic. So I am doing it now, for that younger version of myself, and every girl that came after me.
Have you ever experienced any of the following symptoms?