LSU CASH’s Workshop Coordinator and volunteer writer, Megan McKone, helps us understand what endometriosis and PCOS are.
Endometriosis and Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are two reproductive diseases, 1 in 10 women in the UK are thought to have PCOS. Endometriosis is the second most common gynaecological condition in the UK with 1 in 10 women suffering from it. It is also possible to have both PCOS and endometriosis. Sex education often neglects to inform us of endometriosis and PCOS, yet so many women suffer from one or both diseases. Endometriosis affects roughly the same number of people that diabetes affects, yet why do we learn about diabetes in school but not endometriosis?
Endometriosis can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life but there are treatment options available than can alleviate symptoms. Endometriosis occurs when tissue like that which lines the tissue of the womb starts to grow in the ovaries and/or fallopian tubes. Women of all ages can be affected by endometriosis. It is characterised by painful periods that interfere with day-to-day life, pain during or after sex, pain in the pelvic area/lower back, and difficulty becoming pregnant. Women who have endometriosis may be infertile. Periods may also be very heavy, some women who have endometriosis may not notice symptoms, but others may have severe symptoms which can heavily affect their everyday life. Hormonal contraceptives and pain killers may help to relieve symptoms, there is no cure but there are surgeries that can help you to manage the disease or help you get pregnant. Endometriosis can be an incredibly draining disease – both mentally and physically – however there is dedicated support available, Endometriosis UK is a charity that supports women who suffer from endometriosis. Many women can have endometriosis and not know until they start trying to become pregnant, the awareness of endometriosis is shocking when considering how prevalent the disease is, if you would like to do some research, @laraeparker on Instagram is a good place to start.
Similar to endometriosis, PCOS also affects a large proportion of women and is characterised by irregular periods, an excess of androgens, and polycystic ovaries. Androgens are hormones, those with PCOS have a higher concentration of androgens as compared to an individual without PCOS – androgens are typically thought of as “male” hormones because they could lead to the development of facial and/or body hair. A polycystic ovary is an enlarged ovary which may contain follicles (sacs filled with fluid). There are actually no cysts involved in PCOS. The follicles are harmless but they can prevent an egg being released from the ovary so ovulation cannot occur. Most of those who suffer from PCOS do not have symptoms, which makes PCOS difficult to diagnose, although it is very common. PCOS can make it difficult to become pregnant, however there are treatment options available that can improve the chances of becoming pregnant. Often those with PCOS are not diagnosed until their 20s.
It is important to raise awareness of diseases such as endometriosis and PCOS, often doctors can dismiss a woman’s pain – especially when it involves her reproductive organs – it is important to be your own advocate and be knowledgeable about diseases that may affect you.
Sex should not be painful, although periods are often painful, they should not be so painful it interferes with your responsibilities and daily life. It is important to break the stigma and advocate for ourselves – you know your body better than anyone else, if you don’t think something is right then it probably isn’t.
Featured header image by Annabel Smith.