|Posted by [email protected] on March 2, 2015 at 7:00 AM|
Did you know that March has been deemed Endometriosis Awareness Month? What do you think your awareness levels of this disease are? For instance, did you know that at least 6.3 million women and girls (about 1 in 10) suffer from this condition in the U.S. alone? Did you know that it typically takes women 6-11 years of living in pain before they receive an accurate diagnosis of endometriosis? Did you know that endometrial tissue has been found in the brain and the lungs? Did you know that men can develop endometriosis? Do you know what endometriosis is?
Most people, if they’ve heard of this disease, would probably know that it is generally associated with women and would be surprised to hear that some men have developed it. The endometrial lining of the uterus is the tissue that sloughs off and is expelled during a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle if no egg has been fertilized and implanted in that lining. Endometriosis is when that tissue grows in other places than the inside of the uterus, such as on the ovaries, on the outside wall of the uterus, along the vaginal wall, etc. A full description follows from the Endometriosis Association:
“This misplaced tissue develops into growths or lesions which respond to the menstrual cycle in the same way that the tissue of the uterine lining does: each month the tissue builds up, breaks down, and sheds. Menstrual blood flows from the uterus and out of the body through the vagina, but the blood and tissue shed from endometrial growths has no way of leaving the body. This results in internal bleeding, breakdown of the blood and tissue from the lesions, and inflammation -- and can cause pain, infertility, scar tissue formation, adhesions, and bowel problems.”
If you experience pain before or during your period, during sex, or painful urination or bowel movements during your period, and if you struggle with infertility , fatigue and other gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea or constipation, you may be suffering with endometriosis, too.
The site, endometriosis.org, reports that this condition is the one of the most common causes of pelvic pain and infertility in women. “More than half of all women with endometriosis experience intense pain during sex. What’s more, women who have such pain have a difficult time talking about the problem with their partners, making it even more frustrating,” according to Everyday Health. The pain a woman experiences during a sex can vary in intensity and varies depending on where the lesions are located. There are some strategies for reducing pain during sex if the pain is related to your endometriosis:
1 - Communicate! Don’t let your partner think that you’re just no longer interested in sex or in him or her personally. Let them in on what’s going on for you. In most cases, a woman’s partner is going to want to do whatever is needed to make sex pleasurable for her. Educate your partner(s) about your condition and even invite them to doctor’s appointments so they can more fully understand what it is you’re going through. And invite them to help you brainstorm ways to reduce your pain. These conversations can help bring you closer together, like a team against this painful invader. And it gives you the support you need to deal with this issue.
2 - Experiment and try different positions and different sex acts! This could be an opportunity to have fun with your sex life. It is frustrating to always experience pain during regular intercourse, but sometimes switching things up will let you find a position that does NOT hurt, or doesn’t hurt as much. And getting away from the idea that sex always has to involve vaginal penetration is another way to enjoy sexual pleasure without having to risk pain.
3 - Experiment with different times of the month! Chart your pain cycles and observe the patterns of when your pain is greatest and when it is lowest. Make sex dates during the low-pain times of the month and generate excitement between you and your partner(s) about those upcoming dates. Rather than only focusing on when sex might be most likely to hurt, instead look forward to the days when it’s most likely to be pleasurable.
4 - Get therapy or other individual and relationship support! Seeking help is not a sign of weakness; rather it’s an acknowledgment that you are dealing with something affecting your whole life, not just your sex life. Chronic pain conditions take a toll on one’s sleep, mood, ability to socialize, work, and relationships. The fact that endo pain can greatly impact one’s sex life and ability to have children compounds all those other difficulties. Help and support during treatment, both medical and mental, will help you and your partner(s) weather this storm together.
A fantastic article on what a partner (of any gender) can do to help a partner who suffers from endometriosis was posted on The Good Men Project website. Please disregard the heteronormative bias evident in the article; the advice is too valuable to ignore.