There are many mysteries when it comes to understanding our bodies. This rings true for women and periods, a phenomena the majority of women experience but still don’t fully understand.

We know that pain during menstruation can be normal, that bleeding can last up to a week, and other discharges we might experience. But the fact that we experience periods doesn’t make us an expert on periods. For these reasons, I believe it is important to stay up to date on medical information regarding our bodies and taking ownership of what is happening to us. What is normal to you, could actually be a symptom of something much worse and in this case, could be an indicator of: endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a chronic disease that affects 6.4 million women in the US and millions more worldwide. WebMD defines it as the following, “Endometriosis happens when tissue normally found inside the uterus grows in other parts of the body.” This means that the blood that should be leaving your body is actually flowing backwards into places where it should not be. The menstrual blood should leave from the vagina, but because of obstruction, it can’t. According to the Endometriosis Association Online, “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.”

What makes this illness so chilling is the fact that millions of women suffer from this but don’t know. Citing the AAFP, “It affects 5 to 10 percent of women.” Not only that, but it is an illness that is not properly understood. “Endometriosis is not well understood and is probably multifactorial in origin.” There are however clear symptoms. If you experience any of the following, please contact your OB/GYN (obstetrician/gynecologist).

Mayo clinic symptom list:

  • Painful periods (dysmenorrhea). Pelvic pain and cramping may begin before and extend several days into your period and may include lower back and abdominal pain.
  • Pain with intercourse. Pain during or after sex is common with endometriosis.
  • Pain with bowel movements or urination. You’re most likely to experience these symptoms during your period.
  • Excessive bleeding. You may experience occasional heavy periods (menorrhagia) or bleeding between periods (menometrorrhagia).
  • Infertility. Endometriosis is first diagnosed in some women who are seeking treatment for infertility.
  • Other symptoms. You may also experience fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, or nausea, especially during menstrual periods.

Keep safe and know your body.