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Actress Emma Roberts has been open about her challenges living with endometriosis, a condition that often goes undiagnosed in many women, including Roberts. “I learned that I’ve had undiagnosed endometriosis since I was a teenager,” Roberts, now nearly 30 years old, shared in an interview.
Erica Stockwell, DO, AdventHealth Medical Group advanced gynecologic surgeon and board-certified OB/GYN, explains that “endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the glandular lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, grows where it shouldn’t be.”
Endometriosis is most commonly found in the pelvis and results in pain that’s caused by swelling, fluctuating with the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle. “This disease affects 1 in 10 reproductive-aged women,” says Dr. Stockwell.
This is a condition that can significantly affect quality of life and even fertility. Making matters worse, most women don’t realize that severe pain during their periods isn’t normal, or that endometriosis treatment options exist.
Endometriosis Symptoms and Risk Factors
Endometriosis can be very painful, and symptoms can worsen during your menstrual cycle. The pain may get worse over time, with every period you have. You may also experience other symptoms, such as:
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Heavy bleeding during periods
- Pain when you use the bathroom
If any of these symptoms sound too familiar to you, it’s important to discuss them with your doctor right away. “If endometriosis goes untreated, it can cause scar tissue to form, which may lead to more serious complications.” Dr. Stockwell says.
While the cause of endometriosis isn’t clear, doctors have identified several factors that may put you at a higher risk for the condition. You may be at risk for endometriosis if you have:
- A mother or sister with the condition
- A low body mass index
- Menstrual cycles of 27 days or less
- Never given birth
- Started menstruating before age 10
- Uterine abnormalities
Endometriosis typically develops several years after you start menstruating. However, even if you have a few of these risk factors, you may never develop the condition.
Emma Roberts Lives With Endometriosis, But Is Now Pregnant
For Emma Roberts, the condition affected her fertility, she shared in an interview with Cosmopolitan. Roberts said that she was “stunned” at first and felt as if she’d done something wrong when she learned of her fertility setbacks. This led to her decision to freeze her eggs, and she announced her pregnancy in August 2020.
“Approximately 1 in every 2 or 3 women with endometriosis will have difficulty getting pregnant,” Dr. Stockwell explains, “This is because endometriosis may inhibit fertilization and implantation by damaging the sperm or egg, or by obstructing the fallopian tube with scar tissue.”
Other women living with endometriosis notice dramatic flare-ups of symptoms during their prime reproductive years. Not only does it strongly impact quality of life, but the disease's impact can trickle down to lifestyle choices and interpersonal relationships, as well as fertility.
Living With Endometriosis
With such a significant impact, endometriosis is a serious concern, but something can be done to help, explains Dr. Stockwell. “You are not alone in your struggle and you do not have to face this alone,” she says. There are treatments available to help you live a fulfilling life, so it’s important to find a provider who specializes in endometriosis treatment.
While endometriosis is a common cause of pelvic pain, there are other causes of pain as well. Keep in mind that “killer cramps” are never normal, but they can be managed. It is important to talk to your provider about all of your symptoms to make a correct diagnosis and treatment plan.
You Don’t Have to Face Endometriosis Alone
There is no cure for endometriosis, but there are several treatment options available, including lifestyle modifications, medication and surgery. Our Health Navigation Team can help you get started treating your symptoms and putting you in touch with a care provider. Visit HerHealthNavigator.com to get started.