With March drawing to a close, we finish Endometriosis Awareness Month with an insight into the debilitating condition that is Endometriosis. Maria Rafferty, The Hormone Health Coach, is an acupuncturist, herbalist and educator of women’s health. Through the medium of an ever-popular Instagram account (@thehormonehealthcoach) and specialised women’s health workshops, Maria works passionately to help women help themselves.
Endometriosis is a chronic condition that causes painful or heavy periods which can lead to infertility and problems with the bladder and/or bowel. It is a condition that can often be asymptomatic (produce no symptoms), and may only be discovered as part of fertility investigations, including laparoscopic surgery.
Endometriosis occurs when endometrial-like tissue grows outside of the womb. It affects women during their childbearing years and sadly, the cause is unknown.
The chances are you will know someone who suffers from this debilitating condition, even if you didn’t know the name for it. She’s the girl who suffers chronic pain two weeks out of four and extreme pain for five days every month; she’s the woman who vomits every time she has her period and endures the symptoms of IBS; she’s the friend who plans her social life around her period – often by saying no to invitations; she’s the woman suffering from infertility… This is the reality of someone who lives with endometriosis.
As if that weren’t bad enough, we are so conditioned to believe that periods are meant to be painful that many of us don’t even give her struggle a second thought. It’s likely your friend doesn’t get much sympathy or support at all, even from the medics. This is evident in the fact that the average wait for diagnosis in the UK is 7.5 years.
However the truth is that periods aren’t meant to be painful (especially not that much pain!) and these symptoms offer a clear sign that something is wrong. Conventional treatments can be offered in the form of hormones (to suppress the reproductive system), NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), followed by opiates, then ablation (laser) surgery. This approach can manage some of the symptoms, but they won’t stop the cycle of pain and discomfort, or get to the root of the problem – and as with all medical drugs, they come with side effects. In extreme cases, a hysterectomy may be performed, but as endometriosis occurs outside the womb, even this may not stop the pain. Recently, some doctors are opting for ‘complete excision surgery’ (where growths and scar tissue are removed or destroyed with intense heat). The goal is to treat the endometriosis without harming the healthy tissue of the uterus around the abnormal growths. It is believed that when this surgery is performed by a skilled and experienced surgeon then it should not have to be repeated.
Treating endometriosis is one of the most rewarding parts of my job because I see such a change in my clients’ quality of life, as well as in their confidence. As much as I love helping couples to bring a new life into the world through fertility enhancement, helping a client get on top of their endometriosis is just as rewarding for me, since it helps to give women their lives back. As Chinese Medicine considers endometriosis as Blood Stasis (there will be variances in the underlying patterns for each individual), it makes sense that tools that increase blood flow will bring relief. I therefore use acupuncture and herbs as my main tools, but I also teach all clients a self abdominal massage. By helping women to heal themselves through teaching self-care massage, I help to give them control in an area which used to control them.
I teach women how to track their cycle, as I cannot emphasise enough the importance of knowing when something isn’t right with your menstrual cycle so in turn you can start taking care of yourself – or seek medical help sooner rather than later.
Maria Rafferty, The Hormone Health Coach
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
– Dysmenorrhea or painful menstruation
– Non-menstrual pelvic pain or pain occurring when a woman is not menstruating
– Dyspareunia or painful intercourse
– Cyclical intestinal complaints: periodic bloating, diarrhoea or constipation
– Cyclical dyschezia, painful or difficult defecation
– Cyclical dysuria, painful urination
– Cyclical hematuria, or the presence of blood in the urine
– Cyclical rectal bleeding
– Cyclical shoulder pain
For further information, advice, or guidance please visit the Endometriosis Association of Ireland website: http://www.endometriosis.ie/ or contact Maria Rafferty, The Hormone Health Coach
Facebook: The Hormone Health Coach – Maria Rafferty
Snapchat: mtraffer (Fertility issues only)