Endometriosis: Michelle’s story. What are the signs and symptoms of Endometriosis?


Endometriosis: Michelle’s story

Michelle Middleton from Silsden, West Yorkshire, became unwell after the birth of her son when she was 28. She was diagnosed with endometriosis at 29. 

“After I had my son Leo, I didn’t go back on the pill. I’d been taking it since I was 14 and, looking back, I think it masked my endometriosis symptoms”, says Michelle.

Symptoms of endometriosis

In endometriosis, cells of the womb lining appear elsewhere in the body, for example around the bowel. They bleed in response to the menstrual cycle, causing pain, swelling and scar tissue (adhesions). Symptoms vary, and some women don’t notice any at all, but for others it’s unbearable.

Says Michelle: “My periods had always been painful but not intolerable. Although I had irregular bleeding when I was 18 or 19, nobody mentioned endometriosis. They changed my contraceptive pill to see if that would help, and the results of a cervical smear test showed irregularities. This led to a colposcopy (a procedure that examines the cells in the womb), and pre-cancerous cells were removed.

“I’d also had trouble with my bowels – bloating, diarrhoea and sometimes bleeding. I know now that these can be symptoms of endometriosis.”

Read more about endometriosis symptoms.

“At 25 I came off the pill to start my family. I got pregnant quickly, but miscarried. My second and third pregnancies happened soon after, and although Alana and Leo were premature, they’re both fine.

“After having Leo, my periods were heavier and I gradually started becoming unwell. The main symptom was fatigue. Pushing the baby buggy up a hill was exhausting.

“Then, last summer, I had severe pain during intercourse. Endometriosis adhesions are fibrous, like a web, and can join organs together. Apparently my ovary is attached to my bowel, and this could be causing the pain. I also had a bad bout of bleeding after sex. I bled for about a week.”

Unusual bleeding is a sign of endometriosis

“The first GP I saw told me to wait and see what happened, but I didn’t want to do that, so I saw another doctor. He gave me medication to stop the bleeding, sent me for an ultrasound scan and referred me to a gynaecological consultant. The scan showed a small cyst on one of my ovaries, but they said this was nothing to worry about.

“At my consultant appointment, I was referred for a laparoscopy (a surgical procedure in which the abdomen is examined with a tiny camera). It’s the only way to diagnose endometriosis definitely. When I went back for my follow-up, the consultant said, ‘Well, you’ve got endometriosis’,” recalls Michelle.

Endometriosis treatments

“I’d never heard of it. He didn’t really explain what it was, but said they’d put me in a fake menopause with injections of a drug called Zoladex plus hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to combat side effects such as hot flushes.

“I was hurrying to pick up the kids from nursery, and I think I was in shock because I didn’t ask any questions, which isn’t like me. I had the injection, and when I got home I thought, ‘What have I done?’.

“The injection helped reduce the pain during sex, but it affectedly me badly. At first I felt great. I had so much energy. But it soon got worse. I was exhausted and emotional. I felt as though I had premenstrual syndrome every day. My bowels caused problems, and I became really bloated.

“After two months I came off the HRT and felt better. I stayed on Zoladex for four months, and stopped having periods during that time. I’ve been offered another course of Zoladex, but I’ve decided to wait for a few months before taking it.”

Read more about endometriosis treatments.

Living with endometriosis

Michelle is now trying to live life with endometriosis as naturally as she can.

“I want to let my menstrual cycle get back to normal, and I’m keeping a diary of my symptoms so I can relate them to my cycle. I’m trying natural ways to improve my health. I eat more healthily, I’ve stopped having caffeine, I’m jogging, and I feel much better.

“The pain during sex has returned, which is disappointing.

“If a woman has been diagnosed with endometriosis, I’d want to reassure her that she’s not alone. People worry about how the illness will progress, but it’s different for everyone.

“If you go to internet message boards and read about people who have a very bad experience of endometriosis, try to be objective. There will be people who no longer write messages because they feel better and are getting on with their lives.”

Endometriosis Awareness – Please like and share to raise Endo Awareness! Thanks

Endometriosis Awareness
Endometriosis Awareness

Endometriosis Awareness Week – Endometriosis introduce us to their campaign “It’s ok to talk. Period”

Endometriosis Awareness Week  - click to enlarge
Endometriosis Awareness Week – click to enlarge

Endometriosis UK share “Women and young girls are waiting an average of two years before consulting their GP about difficult or painful periods.  The Diagnosis Survey by Endometriosis UK found that women and young girls do not realise that what they are suffering may not be normal and that they should consult a healthcare professional.

Painful, heavy, difficult or irregular periods can be a sign of an undiagnosed medical condition, including endometriosis. Young women – particularly – need to be encouraged to seek help at an early stage. If they do so they may significantly increase their ability to conceive later in life and will not necessarily have to suffer symptoms for years for which they could have help.  Average diagnosis times for endometriosis still sit at around seven years with 50% of women diagnosed reporting their first symptoms in their teenage years.

That’s why we say in our new campaign that: It’s ok to talk. Period.

Whilst many women experience some pain or discomfort during their period, specifically in the early years, no-one should be experiencing pain that lasts for more than two days. If a period affects everyday activities or cannot be controlled by normal over-the-counter pain medication, then women are encouraged to seek help. Painful periods, especially so if accompanied by other symptoms, may need additional treatment. Early diagnosis has been shown to improve health outcomes for many conditions.

Just talking about what is normal can be helpful.  Many women have learned about periods from their mothers, sisters or aunts, but as some conditions (e.g. endometriosis) have a genetic factor, then symptoms can become normalised.  To help start the conversation, Endometriosis UK is setting up a range of activities to encourage women to talk: online, by telephone and face-to-face.

Helen North, Chief Executive of Endometriosis UK, says: “Women must be more aware of the devastating effects that painful periods can have upon them at an earlier stage. Our recent research indicating delays in both seeking help and diagnosis times for endometriosis, suggests that both women and healthcare professionals need to be much more aware that endometriosis is a possibility. With over 1.5 million women suffering with endometriosis in the UK, it is almost scandalous that they wait an average of seven years for diagnosis. Associated with delayed diagnosis, the costs to the NHS are thought to be as much as £8 billion. Women simply must be encouraged to seek help as soon as they can.”

Leaflets and information to give more information about endometriosis and the symptoms to look out for can be found on the Endometriosis UK website – www.endometriosis-uk.org – with a Pain and Symptom Diary available to download, plus many other useful leaflets. There is also a telephone helpline where people can phone in and discuss their symptoms – see the website for opening times.

Activities to raise awareness about endometriosis continue after Awareness Week, with an event in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 12th March – entitled: ‘Endometriosis: the hidden threat to women’s health’ – and on 13th March in Kensington Gardens, London, in support of the global campaign: ‘Million Woman March for Endometriosis.’

For full information on all the activities and more about Endometriosis, visit www.endometriosis-uk.org.