Endometriosis: What is it really?

Updated: Mar 9

By Cliona Mooney

March was Endometriosis Awareness Month, something which I have only recently become very involved in.

For years I have suffered with extremely painful periods, debilitating cramping, nausea, extreme bloating and pain during sex. For years I also had countless numbers of GPS and Doctors tell me “you must have a very low pain threshold” or “it’s just something women have to put up with” and, my personal favourite; “once you have kids it’ll be better". For years my doctors made me feel like maybe the problem was in my head.

I envied my friends who could still have a normal life when they were on their periods,

because I lived in dread of my next period, it meant making sure I never left the house

without painkillers and missing out because I was bed ridden with my hot water bottle. I

would cry and scream and wonder why nobody would take me seriously. I knew I couldn’t

deal with this every month for years to come. I was depressed and despairing and felt truly


As time went on, my symptoms were only getting worse. The pain was so bad that I would be

left screaming and unable to even get out of bed or stand up straight. It began to take a toll on my day to day life. Then finally last year, I got the answer I’d been searching for, after

ultrasounds and trans-vaginal probes showed nothing, I insisted on getting second and third

and fourth opinions. The only way to diagnose endometriosis is via laparoscopy which is

essentially keyhole surgery.

It’s estimated that 1 in 10 women suffer from endometriosis, and the average wait time for an

accurate diagnosis is 8-10 years, for me, it took 11. The problem with endometriosis is that

there is a huge number of doctors uneducated and unaware of its existence. There is a massive lack of research and awareness around it, which I believe has a lot to do with the stigma society places around periods and reproductive health in general.

So, what exactly is endometriosis? Well, I’m not a doctor, but essentially it is when the cells

or tissues that grow inside of your uterus also occur in various other places throughout your body. For anyone suffering every month, or worrying that what they’re going through isn’t normal, these are some of the most common symptoms of endometriosis;

 Severe Pelvic Cramping

 Heavy Bleeding

 Nausea

 Pain During Sex

 Pain Going to the Bathroom

 Long Periods (7 or more days)

 Fatigue

 Excessive Bloating

 Ovarian Cysts

Endometriosis can also lead to infertility and problems conceiving. Unfortunately, there is no

cure, but operations can temporarily ease the pain. Even with these operations the cells which cause endometriosis, can - and often do - grow back.

Being told you have a chronic illness at the age of 22 is not easy, but I was honestly relieved

because at least I had a word for it, and it wasn’t all in my head.

I am still in a great deal of pain most months, and employers and even friends and family’s

attitudes towards it has a long way to come. Some people take the same attitude that many of my doctors did – I’m being dramatic, they’re just cramps, we’re expected to just grin and

bear it. A lot of this leads back to the fact that there is an acute lack of awareness

surrounding endometriosis and stigma or embarrassment about addressing menstrual issues for some reason. I am passionate about raising awareness of endometriosis and ending the stigma surrounding menstrual and reproductive health in Ireland.

It is so important that if you feel that something is not right, then demand better care. Only

you know your own body. And don’t be afraid to reach out, talk to other sufferers or contact

the Endometriosis Association of Ireland at or by email, info@endo.ie

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