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TV presenter Julia Bradbury has recently spoken out about suffering from endometriosis and her fears that the condition would prevent her from becoming a mother. Thankfully the 40-year-old is now eight months pregnant, but other women with the condition aren’t always so lucky.
Endometriosis can run in families and affects around 20 per cent of women in the UK. The condition causes small pieces of the womb lining, known as the endometrium, to be found outside the womb around the pelvis or on the back of the bowel, in and around the bladder and on the back of the fallopian tubes.
Normally the womb sheds and bleeds at the end of a woman’s monthly cycle, and with endometriosis, the endometrium not in the womb also swells and bleeds, causing pain and fertility problems. Dr Debbie Wake explained to The Hour:
“The main symptoms that women have is that they have a lot of pain around the pelvic area, and if the tissue is on the bowel they can have bowel problems, which are often misdiagnosed. If the tissue is on the bladder they can have problems passing urine or have blood in the urine, and if the tissue is in the ovaries and fallopian tubes, sometimes that can lead to fertility issues.”
Treatments for endometriosis include hormonal therapies such as the oral contraceptive pill or the mini pill, and laser and heat therapy can be used to burn away the tissue. Fertility and pain can be improved with heat and laser therapies but often the problem comes back again.
28-year-old Claire Griffin was diagnosed with the condition when she was 19 but her problems started when she was 14. Her period would last for around 14 days or longer and was very heavy, and she also had extreme pain and was twice admitted to hospital with suspected appendicitis. Claire decided to go to the doctor where she had a laparoscopy, and it was confirmed that she had endometriosis. She said:
“It was a relief to say after all the years that finally there was something wrong and that it wasn’t just in my head because throughout the five years I was going to the doctor’s continually. It was a sigh of relief but also scary finding out what’s the next step and what can be done about it.”
Claire has had surgery which has taken a lot of her pain away, and she’s on the pill until she decides to have children. When she is suffering from pain she uses different kinds of paracetamol and ibuprofen, and when she gets fatigued she tries to keep herself busy and active. She also attends a support group regularly where she has had the opportunity to have one-to-one chats with a gynaecologist and learn about nutrition and what to eat to ease her symptoms.