Receiving an endometriosis diagnosis can mean a lot of changes to your lifestyle. It may mean that you have to take medication long term, adjust your diet and/or undergo surgery. Depending on the severity of your endometriosis and the treatment options your healthcare provider recommends for you, there are some strategies you can adopt to cope better.
Many women with endometriosis struggle with mental health issues, either directly or indirectly related to the condition. It’s normal to feel anxious or depressed because of your endometriosis symptoms, as they can be very painful. In fact, according to studies, 86% of women who are diagnosed with endometriosis, and have chronic pelvic pain as one of their symptom, experience depression.
Depression and Anxiety
Anxiety and depression when you have endometriosis can be caused by a myriad of reasons. Most commonly it is caused by the constant pain and discomfort the condition causes. It can stem from having to wait a long time to get a diagnosis (endometriosis can difficult to diagnose). It could be related to having to make many lifestyle changes or facing the possibility of surgery. There is also the strain of coming to terms with the possibility of infertility.
If you think you may be depressed, talk to your healthcare provider. There are treatments that can help.
Stress comes from feeling unable to deal with or cope with a situation, and endometriosis is oftentimes a condition that often leaves you feeling that way.
If you can afford it, speak to a mental health professional and counselor. He/she will be able to help you cope with any depression, anxiety or stress you may be going through. A counselor will also be in the best position to give you solid coping mechanisms to implement.
Alternatively, you can join a support group with women who have also been diagnosed with endometriosis. Speaking with people in positions similar to yours can help in alleviating some of your fears and finding alternative options for managing your endometriosis pain.
Taking care of yourself physically is also important. A few lifestyle changes can make a world of difference in how you feel.
Making adjustments to your diet may improve your endometriosis pain. There is some scientific evidence that limiting your exposure to certain environmental chemicals like dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) can help reduce the severity of your endometriosis. These chemicals are commonly found in animal fat like red meat. In one study, data from 504 woman was analyzed. It was found that the consumption of red meat and ham increased the risk of endometriosis.
There is also some evidence that adding vegetables, flaxseed, salmon, mackerel, and sardines to your diet may help. Seafood particularly because they contain omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to alleviate pain, and are also suspected to slow the growth of endometrial implants.
There isn’t any strong evidence that exercise improves endometriosis directly. But as we all know, exercise can help you feel better generally. This is because, during exercise, certain hormones called endorphins (the feel-good hormones) are released.
Activities like yoga and meditation can also help you reduce your stress, and consequently, possibly lessen the severity of your endometriosis.
Devices and Products
There are certain products that many women with endometriosis use to help relieve pain. They include:
- Hot water bottle
- Pelvic pillow
- Heating pads
- TENS machines: Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machines are devices that are used to relieve different kinds of pain. There is some evidence that TENS machines are effective as complementary treatment options for endometriosis-related pelvic pain. They can be bought over the counter.
- Herbal teas: There is some anecdotal evidence that herbal teas can help with pain. In any case, many women find that they have soothing and relaxing effects.
Be sure to inform your healthcare provider before you start taking any herbal teas to ensure that there’ll be no harmful interactions with your medication.
Having people to lean on for help, support, or even just when you need to vent, can help you feel more able to cope with living with this condition.
Support Groups and Online Communities
There are many online and offline support groups for women living with endometriosis you can join. They can be very useful in learning how to deal with your endometriosis better. One of such online communities is My Endometriosis Team.
Dealing With Your Family and Friends
Your loved ones may find it difficult to understand your condition, its symptoms, and how it affects your life. They may be worried or anxious for you which may, in turn, worsen your anxiety. They may also become unsure of how to behave around you.
If that is the case, directing them to websites and resources where they can learn more about endometriosis will be useful. Also, if you’re comfortable doing so, you can regularly discuss your feelings and where you are at with your loved ones
Living with endometriosis can be tough sometimes, but there are things you can do to help manage pain and support your emotional health.
There are many apps through which you can track your endometriosis pain and symptoms. Keeping track of them will help you understand, expect, and manage your pain, and also let you see if your current medications/treatments are working.
Two of these apps are:
You can also use a pen and paper to keep a pain diary if you’re more comfortable writing things down the old-fashioned way.
It is possible that you’re on strong painkillers or opioids to reduce your endometriosis pain. These types of medication are known to induce sleepiness, dizziness, drowsiness, and impair your reflexes.
Because of this, you should always check, either with your employer or healthcare provider (preferably both), if it is safe to continue work in the capacity that you previously were. This precaution particularly applies if your job involves you working with heavy or dangerous machinery.
Coping With Infertility
Endometriosis can affect fertility, making it difficult to conceive. If you plan to have children, you should start considering your options as soon as possible after diagnosis.
You may wish to consider getting infertility counseling for fertility issues as a result of your endometriosis. If you have a spouse or partner, it may be helpful for them to join you for this.
Infertility counselors can help you deal with depression and anxiety you may face while trying to conceive. They can also help you explore your options in a more comfortable setting than at your healthcare provider’s office.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the stages of endometriosis?
Healthcare providers often categorize endometriosis into four distinct stages:
- Stage 1 (minimal): Few implants (endometrial tissue growing outside the lining of the uterus)
- Stage 2 (mild): Several implants that are deeper
- Stage 3 (moderate): Many deep implants along with small cysts on one or both ovaries as well as adhesions (scar tissue)
- Stage 4 (severe): Lots of deep implants accompanied by large ovarian cysts and many dense adhesions
What’s hardest about living with endometriosis?
Everyone with this disease experiences it differently, but in a study in 2020, women with endometriosis reported several common challenges:
When does endometriosis pain tend to be worse?
Pain similar to menstrual cramps tends to most troublesome just before and during the menstrual period. Endometriosis can cause other types of pain as well, such as during sex, urination, and bowel movements, depending on the location and size of implants.
How does endometriosis affect fertility?
People with endometriosis may have twice the risk of infertility as those who do not have the disease. There are numerous ways in which endometriosis may affect the ability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term, including adhesions, inflammation, interference with the development of follicles (sacs that contain ova, or eggs), and even damage to sperm.
Will turmeric ease my endometriosis symptoms?
Maybe. Preliminary research has found that a compound in turmeric called curcumin may reduce inflammation and oxidative stress associated with endometriosis. More research will be needed before turmeric can be widely recommended for treating endometriosis, but it can’t hurt to use the spice in cooking or teas or to talk to your gynecologist about supplementation.