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Endometriosis: about possibility to prevent it ENDOMETRIOSIS: ABOUT POSSIBILITY TO PREVENT IT
In the past it was often claimed that endometriosis could be prevented if women had frequent pregnancies early in their reproductive life. But it is now well documented that early and frequent childbearing does not necessarily protect a woman from developing endometriosis as many women have been diagnosed after they have had their children.
So far, gynaecologists and researchers have not been able to find a way of preventing endometriosis because no one knows precisely the causes or what factors influence its development or who it affects.
There is a considerable amount of research being carried out which is attempting to identify the possible factors that may increase or decrease a woman's risk of developing endometriosis. To-date, none of the results have been sufficiently consistent for any conclusions to be made. In the future it may be possible to identify those women and girls who are most likely to develop endometriosis and to offer them advice regarding the things that they could do to reduce their risk of developing the condition.
Eventually, when more is known about what determines how — and why — the misplaced endometrium implants in some women and not others, it may also be possible to find ways to prevent endometriosis from occurring altogether or at least to prevent recurrences of the condition. For example, it may be possible to develop a vaccine against the condition or to develop drugs which cure the condition permanently.
It came as something of a shock when I was told in December 1986 that I had endometriosis — a shock because I had never heard of 'endometriosis'.
Coming from a family of eight children I suppose I just assumed fertility would never be a problem.
Thinking back now, I am sure I developed endometriosis when I was about 16 — about two years after I started menstruating. I would get severe cramps on the first two days of my period, usually requiring me to stay home from school tucked up in bed with my faithful hot water bottle.
I remember waking one night in such severe pain I could hardly walk. I staggered to the bathroom, thinking I had a severe bout of diarrhoea. For two hours I suffered hot flushes and pain which, although I have never experienced childbirth, came with the irregularity of labour pains. I remember staggering out of the bathroom and fainting — much to the horror of my father.
You see, he was a jockey and his small five foot frame was no match for my larger, heavier and limp body. Much to his credit, he was able to carry me to bed!
The next morning my mother took me to our local doctor. After describing the symptoms, he told us I had probably experienced a twisted bowel which had 'corrected itself. His solution for my painful periods was to put me on the pill.
For the next 10 years I went on and off the pill. I didn't think it was too healthy to stay on the pill for such a long stretch but each time I took a break, the cramping periods would be back as bad as ever. It was easier to stay on the pill and enjoy a relatively painless cycle.
In 1985 my husband and I decided it was time to start a family. I just presumed that the first month off the pill would result in the expected pregnancy.
When this didn't eventuate, I was given the usual advice: 'Try not to think about it dear', 'Your job is too stressful', 'Just relax!'.
Six months later I had another attack of what I thought was a twisted bowel. Again I went to a doctor and again he confirmed that it was a twisted bowel which had corrected itself. I mentioned to him that I was having difficulty becoming pregnant. His answer was that as I was only 25, 1 shouldn't worry. He said he would not recommend seeing a specialist for another two years.
Neither my husband nor I were happy with that suggestion and we decided to see another doctor. As luck would have it, a girl I went to school with was working as a GP near our home. I went to her, told her my symptoms and had an appointment with a gynaecologist two weeks later. That's when the fun really started. On my first visit, he did an internal examination and told me I was very tender on my right side. Who wouldn't be tender when someone is tugging at your ovaries!
He suspected an ectopic pregnancy and sent me to have blood tests and an ultra-sound, both of which confirmed I was not pregnant. I was then booked in to have a laparoscopy and this revealed I had severe endometriosis.
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