What Is Endometriosis? Here's Your Guide

What It Is

Endometriosis is a medical condition in which endometrial tissue (which lines the inside of the uterus) begins to grow ectopically, or on the outside of the uterus. In addition to the actual surface of the uterus, common sites where endometriosis can occur include the fallopian tubes, the ovaries, and the pelvic cavity lining. While these growths, which are referred to as endometrial implants, are typically characterized as benign, they can be difficult to remove and cause a number of distressing symptoms.

One of the most common symptoms of endometriosis is intense pain surrounding and especially immediately before menstruation. While experiencing some cramping and abdominal pain around your menstrual cycle is normal, the pain associated with endometriosis tends to be especially severe. The condition can also cause intense cramping or pain during sex, irregular or unusually heavy periods, pain during urination, and fatigue coupled with persistent lower-abdominal pain. While rarely associated with mild to moderate forms of the condition, infertility is often seen in conjunction with Stage IV endometriosis.

What to Do

If you suspect that you may have endometriosis, the best course of action is to schedule a visit with your ob-gyn. The doctor will perform an exam and may conduct an ultrasound to rule out other sources of pain. Currently, the only way to definitively diagnose endometriosis is by visually assessing the tissue, requiring surgery. This most often involves laparoscopy, an outpatient procedure in which a biopsy may also be performed. Once diagnosed, endometrial implants can be treated with medication or surgically removed.

To learn more about what endometriosis is and how to treat it, the Endometriosis Association offers a number of valuable resources. Ultimately, endometriosis can be extremely painful but, with proper treatment, is unlikely to cause lasting damage to your health. By being honest about your symptoms and actively taking control of your reproductive health, you’ll be taking an important step toward overall wellness and peace of mind.

Up next, learn about the biggest women’s reproductive health tips from a holistic doula.