When to Talk to Your Doctor About Endometriosis
It may be time to talk to your primary care physician or OB/GYN if you are a woman in your 30s or 40s and are experiencing the following symptoms:
- Pain. Pain is the most common symptom and can include painful menstrual cramps that get worse over time, chronic pain in the lower back and pelvis, pain during or after sex, intestinal pain, painful bowel movements, or pain when urinating during your period. In some cases, you may find blood in your stool or urine.
- Bleeding or spotting between periods.
- Infertility or difficulty getting pregnant.
- Digestive issues or stomach problems, including diarrhea, constipation, bloating, or nausea—especially during your periods.
How is Endometriosis Diagnosed?
Your doctor will talk to you about your symptoms and may prescribe one or more of the following to find out if you have endometriosis (1):
- Pelvic exam. During a pelvic exam, your doctor will feel for large cysts or scars behind your uterus.
- Ultrasound. Your doctor may do an ultrasound to see if ovarian cysts are visible from endometriosis. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is another common imaging test that can make a picture of the inside of your body and help discover cysts.
- Medicine. If your doctor does not find signs of an ovarian cyst during an ultrasound, he or she may prescribe medicine, such as a hormonal birth control, which can lessen menstrual pain or a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which blocks the menstrual cycle and lowers the amount of estrogen your body produces.
- Laparoscopy. Laparoscopy is a type of surgery that doctors can use to look inside your pelvic area to see endometriosis tissue. While surgery is the only way to be sure you have endometriosis, sometimes doctors can diagnose endometriosis just by seeing the growths. Other times, they need to take a small sample of tissue and study it under a microscope to confirm it is endometriosis.
What if I am Trying to Get Pregnant?
If you are trying to get pregnant, your doctor can prescribe a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist. GnRH stops the body from making the hormones responsible for ovulation, the menstrual cycle, and the growth of endometriosis. GnRH causes a temporary menopause, but it also controls the growth of endometriosis. Once you stop taking the medicine, your menstrual cycle returns, and you may have a better chance of getting pregnant.
Surgery is another option for those who have severe symptoms. If hormones are not providing relief or if you are having fertility issues, the surgeon can surgically remove patches of endometriosis. After surgery, talk to your physician about the best path to pregnancy.
There are other options, including alternative therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, herbs like cinnamon twig or licorice root, or supplements, such as thiamine (vitamin B1), magnesium, or omega-3 fatty acids. (1)
For more information and resources, click here, or contact Carrie Snyder, Women's Health Nurse Navigator, at (844) 316-3330, or email [email protected].