Endometriosis Awareness Month: Periods are not meant to be painful
Periods are not meant to be painful. Those words surprise many women.
We have this belief that period pain is normal which helps to explain in part why so many women live with endometriosis without being correctly diagnosed.
Endometriosis is the second most common gynaecological condition in the UK. It affects between two and 10 women out of 100 women.
The average time taken for diagnosis is 7.5 years, according to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
For some women who come to see me it is often a lot longer - in some cases 20 years.
The fact that some of the symptoms are very similar to those linked to Irritable Bowel Syndrome slows down diagnosis.
This needs to change.
I use acupuncture, Chinese herbs and abdominal massage for women presenting with period pain and endometriosis.
Dark, clotted, painful periods suggest poor blood flow to the uterus so the focus is on increasing blood flow to the pelvis.
While not all period pain means endometriosis and not all endometriosis means pain, women should understand their menstrual cycle to identify potential issues.
There is a real hunger for knowledge out there. I have been blown away by the number of messages I have received since starting up my Instagram profile, which tries to educate women about reproductive health.
Many of the women I see don’t know enough about menstrual cycles. Monitoring their cycle, digestive system and maintaining self-care allows a young woman to understand, preserve and improve her health. We need to equip women with the know-how to do this.
We are seeing advancements with surgery. We are also seeing an increase in acupuncture research, (as of Feb 2018, the number of clinical trials for acupuncture in the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials just passed 10,000.)
As I see it a three-pronged approach to endometriosis is therefore needed in Northern Ireland: Educating women about their cycle from a young age and utilizing both Western and Eastern techniques, tailored to each individual’s needs.
What matters is the patient’s return to full health, not which tool they use to get there.
- Maria Rafferty is based at Synergy Health and her Instagram account is called The Hormone Health Coach.