Many women experience mild to moderate cramping during their period. But if your pain is considerably bad every month, talk to your doctor because you may have endometriosis.
“Endometriosis occurs when the uterine, or endometrial, lining grows outside the uterus,” says Grant D. McWilliams, DO, FACOG, obstetrician and gynecologist, Saint Francis Medical Partner. “This abnormal tissue continues to thicken and bleed with each period, but because it has nowhere to go, it becomes trapped and can irritate surrounding tissue.”
Symptoms of endometriosis include:
- Abnormally painful periods
- Excessive bleeding during or between periods
- Pain during or after sex
- Pain during bowel movements
- Lower backaches prior to the start of the menstrual period
Endometriosis can be genetic. If your mother or sister has endometriosis, you are more likely to suffer from symptoms as well. Starting your period before age 12 and experiencing longer-than-average periods are also risk factors.
While there is no cure for endometriosis, your doctor can help you manage it. In some cases, you may only need anti-inflammatory medications to control the pain. In other cases, your doctor may prescribe hormone therapy.
“Hormones during the menstrual cycle are what cause the endometrial lining to thicken and break down,” says McWilliams. “If we can affect the menstrual cycle itself, we may be able to slow the growth of additional endometrial tissue outside the uterus.”
The downside to hormone therapy is that it affects the reproductive cycle, which can be a challenge for becoming pregnant.
“For women who want to become pregnant, surgery may be the best answer,” says McWilliams. “It can be performed either laparoscopically or another minimally invasive surgery. During the procedure, we try to remove as much as the endometriosis as possible while still preserving the uterus and ovaries.”
In severe cases, a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus, cervix and both ovaries) may be the best way to relieve pain.
To make an appointment with McWilliams, please call 573-331-3000.