Beth* first experienced the pain that comes with endometriosis when she was in high school. Of course, back then, she had no idea what it was. When she begged her mum to stay home, her mum did what most parents in the 90s did. She shipped her off to school with painkillers, told her it’s part of being a woman and that was that.
‘Like someone was sawing my stomach in half’
For years Beth suffered in silence, assuming it was like this for everyone. She assumed that, behind closed doors, all women were lying in bed in horrific pain, wiling their periods to be over for another three weeks.
It wasn’t just cramping either. She experienced constipation, nausea, severe back pain and intense bloating.
It felt like someone was sawing my stomach in half. I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but there really isn’t any other way to explain it.
And the bloating! I would barely eat anything all day and still have a tummy that looked six months pregnant,” she tells Mum Central.
Over the years, she went to the doctor after doctor. The first doctor put her on birth control. She returned and was switched to another type of birth control. She saw an IBS specialist before another doctor suggested she see a gynecologist.
11 years after those first painful periods, Beth was finally properly diagnosed with endometriosis and she got the help she needed.
1 in 9
For those who are unsure what endometriosis is, it’s a chronic condition where the lining of the uterus grows elsewhere in the body. Women who have it can experience extreme pain, intense cramps, fatigue, and other symptoms.
Two types of problems can occur when endometriosis is present – pain and infertility.
It’s something that affects 1 in 9 women, More than 830,000 (or just over 11%) of Australian women suffer from endometriosis at some point in their life. More often than not, the disease starts in the teenage years.
However, like Beth, the majority of these women must wait years and years to be properly diagnosed.
Why is this? Well, up until recently there wasn’t a lot of awareness about the condition. It wasn’t something that doctors regularly looked out for.
However, this is all changing and the federal government has committed $58 million in the upcoming budget to help the 800,000 women who live with the disease.
Funds for endometriosis
The $58 million will fund two specialist treatment clinics in each state and territory, including funding to access MRI scans, and money for patient management plans and research.
Scott Morrison made the announcement on Friday, explaining that his wife, Jenny, has the condition.
This was the most awful thing to see the one you love go through every single month,” he said.
12 years for a proper diagnosis
According to Jason Abbott, a professor at the University of NSW and the medical director of Endometriosis Australia, access to these funds will hopefully provide women with a diagnosis quicker than ever before.
20 years ago, women would wait, on average, 12 years for a diagnosis, according to Mr. Abbott.
Since then we’ve halved that time but, 6 years is still too long to wait.
According to Mr. Abbott,
This package [the $58 million] does an enormous amount to make sure we are at the forefront of endometriosis research, development and patient care.
The more we invest in research – we may be in the process, in the future, to be a world leader for genetic screening for endometriosis.”
Endometriosis Awareness Month
20 years ago, women like Beth were hiding in their rooms, trying to cope with the debilitating pain on their own. Told they were ‘being dramatic’ or to “just deal” with the pain.
Countless other women were crying in the toilets, unsure why they could not fall pregnant. Unsure why they felt so bloated, so emotionally drained, so off, their endometriosis misdiagnosed or missed altogether.
Today more and more women are aware that painful periods are not normal and are getting the attention they need from medical professionals. Celebrities, such as Amy Schumer and Emma Watkins are speaking out about their own battles with it and this new $58 million funding is a big step in the right direction.
For more information on symptoms, treatments, seeking a diagnosis, support groups and research, jump on over to Endometriosis Australia, it’s an amazing resource!
*Name has been changed for privacy reasons