Can you imagine being in so much pain that you can't even get out bed?
For over 176 million women worldwide suffering from endometriosis, coping with debilitating pain is simply a way of life. In fact, for author and Top Chef co-host Padma Lakshmi, the pain of endometriosis kept her chained to her bed for one week out of every month over the course of twenty long years.
“No one wants to talk about their period. It’s not my nature to go on TV and talk about my vagina, but it was such a good cause and I saw how much better my life was after I had surgery and got the proper treatment. I was like, ‘Oh! This is what normal people feel like,'” said Padma in an interview with People Magazine.
In 2009, Padma co-founded the Endometriosis Foundation of America and today, their annual EndoMarch unites thousands of women all over the world in a unified mission to build awareness and shatter the stigmas surrounding endometriosis.
What is endometriosis?
Here is the definition of endometriosis according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
Endometriosis is a condition in which the type of tissue that forms the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) is found outside the uterus.
For sufferers like Padma, endometriosis feels so much more intense and debilitating than any definition could articulate.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
When her symptoms began, Padma had no idea the intense pain she was feeling every month was actually endometriosis. In fact, she went 23 years without a diagnosis, in spite of having full access to quality medical care.
Here are the symptoms of endometriosis according to the Endometriosis Foundation of America:
- “Killer cramps”
- Long periods
- Heavy menstrual flow
- Bowel and urinary disorders
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Pain during sexual activities
- Chronic fatigue
As if these symptoms weren't enough, there is strong link between endometriosis and infertility.
According to the ACOG, almost 40% of women with infertility have endometriosis. Inflammation from endometriosis may damage the sperm or egg or may prevent their movement through the fallopian tubes and uterus. In severe cases, the fallopian tubes may even become blocked by scar tissue.
How does endometriosis reduce your desire for intimacy?
Beyond the devastating physical pain of endometriosis, Padma has been outspoken about the way the disease has impacted her desire for intimacy and her feelings about her identity as a woman.
"It affects your intimacy and your hormones and every fiber of your body is not wanting to be touched and is not wanting to be close to anyone," said Padma in an interview on The Meredith Vieira show.
Unfortunately, the treatment options for endometriosis are all invasive and in some severe cases, a hysterectomy may be necessary. It's not hard to imagine how undergoing this kind of treatment would affect a woman's sense of self.
If you, or someone you know, may be suffering from endometriosis, know that you're not alone.
Thanks to women like Padma, there is a growing community of supportive women and medical practitioners around the world ready to help you through this difficult journey. For more information on living with endometriosis visit the Endometriosis Foundation of America website.