Endometriosis is a condition that causes tissue resembling the tissue found in a woman's uterine lining to grow outside the uterus. It can cause pelvic pain, infertility and very heavy periods. Women who are most likely to have endometriosis:

  • Began getting their period at an early age
  • Have heavy periods
  • Have periods that last more than seven days
  • Have a short monthly cycle (27 days or less)
  • Have a close relative (mother, aunt, sister) with endometriosis

As the misplaced tissue grows, it can cover or grow into the ovaries and block the fallopian tubes. This can make it hard for women with endometriosis to get pregnant. The growths can also cause problems in surrounding organs like the intestines and bladder.

What you can do to help prevent and treat endometriosis

Some studies suggest that exercising regularly and avoiding alcohol and caffeine may lower your chances of developing endometriosis.

While there is no cure for endometriosis, there are many treatments for the pain and infertility it causes. The treatment you and your doctor choose will depend on your symptoms, age and plans for getting pregnant. Options may include:

  • Pain medication. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription drugs as a first step in treatment.
  • Hormone treatment. Pills, shots or nasal sprays may be a good option for women who have small growths without severe pain and do not want to become pregnant.
  • Surgery. Laparoscopy, laparotomy or hysterectomy are options for women who have many growths, severe pain or fertility problems.

Many women benefit from joining a support group to help cope with the emotions of endometriosis – like sadness, fear, anger, confusion and loneliness. Talking with friends and family can also help.

How to talk to your doctor

Talk to your obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) about whether you have endometriosis if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Heavy and painful menstrual periods that get worse over time
  • Spotting or bleeding between periods
  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea, constipation or bloating
  • Lower back or intestinal pain
  • Pain during or after sex
  • Fatigue
  • Infertility

The only way to know for sure if you have endometriosis is through a surgery called laparoscopy. In this procedure, your doctor inserts a thin tube with a light on it through a tiny cut in your abdomen. Your doctor may take tissue samples if she cannot see endometriosis growths during the procedure.

Before doing a laparoscopy, your doctor will do a pelvic exam if endometriosis is suspected. Additional tests, such as an ultrasound or MRI, may also be needed.

Live and work well

United Behavioral Health can help you find ways to cope with the emotional side effects of endometriosis. Help yourself to self-paced courses and confidential mental health resources.