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Endometriosis

Endometriosis can affect anyone who has started their period.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a chronic condition that causes cells like those found in the lining of the womb to grow elsewhere in the body. These cells behave the same way as the womb lining; every month they build up, then break down and bleed. Unlike the lining of the womb (which leaves through the vagina as a period), these cells don’t have anywhere to go when they break down, leaving them trapped inside the body.

This can lead to symptoms such as: pain in the lower back or abdomen, painful and heavy periods, painful sex, pain when weeing or pooing, and feeling sick or constipated. In some cases, endometriosis can lead to infertility.

Endometriosis affects approximately 1 in 10 people who have a womb. On average, it takes 7.5 years to get a diagnosis of endometriosis.

What is a womb?

A womb is the reproductive organ that sits in the abdomen of people with a vulva. It is where a baby grows if the person becomes pregnant, and where period blood comes from.

Someone will probably have a womb if they have a vagina and vulva, but this is not the case for everyone; not all women have a womb, and not all people with a womb are women. Find out more about gender.

Can you treat endometriosis?

The exact cause of endometriosis is currently not known and there isn’t a cure yet, but there is treatment available. Treatment can involve hormonal contraception, painkillers or surgery to remove the cells. Everyone will experience endometriosis differently and so no one method of treatment is better than any other.

While some period pain is normal, if your periods are causing you so much pain you can’t move then you should ask someone (like a parent, carer, or doctor) for help. 

You might want to talk to family members to see how they experience their menstrual cycle. On the Endometriosis UK website you can also find a pain and symptom diary which can help you track your symptoms before you see your GP. Painful periods don’t mean you definitely have endometriosis but talking to somebody means you can get the help and support you need to manage your periods.

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