ENDOMETRIOSIS IS A CONDITION WHERE TISSUE THAT LINES THE UTERUS IS ALSO FOUND OUTSIDE OF THE UTERUS.
“As an Endometriosis suffer, I’ve had a substantial amount of symptoms, anything from headaches, tiredness, extreme bloating to the fact that I looked pregnant,” says Kirsty of her chronic illness.
Kirsty is a midwife and a registered nurse from Adelaide. She shares her story of Endometriosis to help other women because she believes the illness is misunderstood.
“When I was diagnosed with endometriosis, I was quite naive,” she says. “I didn’t know much about it, and I kind of felt like if I had a surgery, it was gone and it’s fixed.”
Dr Fariba Behnia-Willison, a South Australian gynaecologist and pioneer in single-incision laparoscopy, says about 10% of women experience Endometriosis and it can take up to 10 years for the condition to be diagnosed.
Behnia-Willison advises “Endometriosis is the ectopic implantation of the inner layer of the uterus or endometrium in different organs. If it is implanted in the uterus, in the wall of the uterus, we call it Adenomyosis, but if it is implanted in the pelvis, bowel, bladder, lungs, eyes, brain, it’s called Endometriosis.”
Some women experience little or no symptoms, while others may have pelvic and other pain, or difficulty becoming pregnant. The severity of Endometriosis doesn’t always correlate with symptoms.
For Kirsty, the disorder comes with painful intercourse, bowel dysfunction and infertility.
“I was in a long-term relationship with my fiance, and I never got pregnant in that whole time of nearly eleven years.”
On infertility, Behnia-Willison says “Endometriosis can affect fertility in different ways. One is creating an unfriendly environment for the egg and sperm to be fertilised. The other thing is that it can interfere with tubal function and interfere with the transfer of the egg to the womb.”
Management of Endometriosis can be medical or surgical. Still, because it is a multifaceted disease, the condition requires a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment, including a Physiotherapist, Dietician, Gynaecologist, and in some cases a Colorectal Surgeon and Urologist.
When it comes to treatment, Benhia Willison says it should be tailored to a patient’s stage of life. “A woman should be able to seek second, third, fourth opinion if needed until she feels that she’s understood and listened to, and the plan is tailored according to her needs.”
For Kirsty, recent surgery was about alleviating some of her symptoms, but also about preserving her fertility, after been told she should have a hysterectomy.
“I’m really grateful that I had access to minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgery,” she says. “I’m glad that I’ve been an advocate for my own health, I still have my uterus and have a chance of having another baby.”