Myths & Facts About Endometriosis

Endometriosis affects about 200 million women worldwide. When you have this painful condition, the endometrium -- the lining of your uterus -- grows outside the uterus. There’s a lot about this condition we don’t understand, but here are answers to come common myths.

Myth: Endometriosis is just a really heavy period.

During your monthly cycle, hormones cause the lining of your uterus to thicken in preparation for possible pregnancy. If you don’t get pregnant, you get your period. The tissue breaks down and exits through your vagina.

Endometriosis happens when those hormones trigger similar thickening and bleeding in the tissue growing outside your uterus, like on your ovaries or in the tubes that deliver your eggs (the fallopian tubes). This often makes you bleed more during your period, but not always.

Myth: Heavy bleeding means you have endometriosis.

Not necessarily. It’s one possible cause, but other things could be to blame, like:

Myth: Serious pain is normal during your period.

Talk to your doctor if pain interferes with your daily routine. It’s a common sign of endometriosis and of other problems. And the pain may not be limited to your period. Endometriosis can also cause pain between periods, when you go to the bathroom, or during sex.

Myth: You can’t get it when you’re young.

If you’ve started your period, you can get endometriosis. It is more likely once you get into your 30s and 40s, but your chances also go up if:

  • Other family members have had it.
  • You start your period young.
  • Your periods last longer than 7 days.

It typically takes 7-10 years to diagnose, so talk to your doctor if you notice symptoms like pain, heavy bleeding, bad cramps, bloating, and spotting between periods.

Myth: It’s all in your head.

Endometriosis is a physical condition, not a mental one. Blood and tissue buildup can lead to bloating, inflammation, scar tissue, and pain serious enough to need surgery. But years of long, painful periods and uncomfortable sex can take its toll on your mental health, especially if you don’t know what causes them. That’s why it’s important to find a doctor, usually a gynecologist, although in a large city you might find a doctor who specializes in endometriosis. They can help you diagnose and manage your condition.

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Myth: Your symptoms signal how serious it is.

Not always. You could have advanced endometriosis with no obvious symptoms, or a mild case that causes intense pain and other issues.

Myth: Something you did caused your endometriosis.

Doctors don’t know what causes endometriosis, though it does run in families. Also, the hormone estrogen seems to make the condition worse. Things like douching or having an abortion don’t cause it.

Myth: Endometriosis means you can’t get pregnant.

Not necessarily. Most women with the condition are still able to have children, though the more serious the disease, the more likely you are to have problems. Your doctor may be able to help with certain treatments if you have trouble getting pregnant because of endometriosis.

Myth: Pregnancy cures endometriosis.

There’s no cure for endometriosis, though your doctor can use hormones, pain meds, and, in serious cases, surgery, to manage the condition. During pregnancy, you don’t have your period. Levels of the hormone progesterone in your body rise, which often eases endometriosis symptoms. But they’ll likely return -- either after you give ­­­birth or after you finish breastfeeding.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH on February 12, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Endometriosis.org: “Causes,” “Endometriosis and hysterectomy,” “Facts about endometriosis,” “Finding an endometriosis specialist,” “Myths and misconceptions in endometriosis,” “Treatments.”

Endometriosis UK: “Understanding Endometriosis - Information Pack.”

Office of Women’s Health: “Douching,” “Endometriosis,” “Period problems.”

Mayo Clinic: “Menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding).”

American Academy of Family Physicians: “Endometriosis.”

Endometriosis Foundation of America: “Endometriosis Symptoms: Abnormal Periods,” “Endometriosis: Fast Facts.”

Illinois Department of Public Health: “Facts About Endometriosis.”

Mayo Clinic: “Endometriosis.”

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