You may not need to break up with your uterus!
March is Endometriosis Awareness Month and by now, if you’re someone interested in either pop culture, women’s health or fertility in general, you’ve heard that Lena Dunham has had a hysterectomy to treat her endometriosis.
A hysterectomy is a surgery that completely removes the uterus and cervix. This is a big decision, not only in how it will impact your family building goals (if you have plans to have a family) but also if it truly is the best course of action to treat your endometriosis.
While illnesses like endometriosis have similar symptoms, every patient is different. Every individual’s threshold for pain is different as is every individual’s desire to have a family. We can’t say if Ms. Dunham feels strongly about having children, we can only surmise that these are conversations that took place between her and her doctor and the decision that they came to was a difficult one.
More Common Than You Think
When you come to our clinic, these are things we discuss. We look at your age, how severe your symptoms are, what your family goals are, your pain level and what options you have. There is no “one size” fits all. So, if you came to today’s blog looking for an emphatic, “What should I do with my endometriosis?”, there’s no one correct answer.
What we CAN tell you though - and what we want you to know both considering this month’s theme and in light of Lena Dunham’s story - is that while a hysterectomy was an option for this one particular well-known writer/actress, it doesn’t mean that it’s the one you personally should pursue as well!
The American Society of Reproductive Medicine estimates that up to 50% of women who experience infertility have endometriosis. It is a disease where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus, known as the endometrium, is found outside of the uterus. In fact, quite often, the uterus has nothing to do with the disease. This lining can be found throughout the entire pelvis area, including the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bowels, bladder and even in some cases, the appendix, causing inflammation and pain.
Symptoms can vary from patient to patient but overall, the most common symptoms are severe menstrual cramps, painful intercourse, heavy or irregular periods and infertility.
There are first lines of defense such as over the counter pain medications. Hormone treatments are an option as well (i.e. birth control pills); however, for many these treatments tend not to be sufficient for pain control. Unfortunately, the diagnosis of endometriosis requires surgical confirmation. Surgical options range from minimally invasive (laparoscopy) to invasive (laparotomy). Typically, a skilled surgeon can diagnose and treat endometriosis with minimally invasive techniques. Further, severe endometriosis causes infertility in many cases and fertility treatments are essential for helping to build your family (either with insemination or IVF).
What Comes Next?
If you suspect you have endometriosis (or you know you have it and are wondering what your options are), you are your own best advocate. Take notes on when you’re having the most pain (is there a certain time in your cycle? Is it worse during intercourse? Do you miss work? Are certain remedies helpful, like heating pads or Advil? If any of these questions describe you then make an appointment with us, come in and let’s work together and figure out what works for you.
You may not be as famous as Lena Dunham but that doesn’t mean your condition shouldn’t get the same celebrity treatment!