Endometriosis Myth 1: Pregnancy Is A Cure
There’s this absolutely brilliant misunderstanding out there that childbirth cures Endometriosis. I’m not entirely sure who started it, but I assume it has something to do with the notion that Gynecological health is only important as it pertains to fertility. This is something that every person who goes to the gynie knows well. Rather than focus on treating the pain and other symptoms of Endometriosis, most doctors focus on fertility only.
A quick definition before we move along: Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue similar to the Endometrium (lining of the uterus) appears on organs around the body. It can cause symptoms including but not limited to: dysmenorrhea (painful periods), dyspareunia (painful sex), fatigue, painful urination and bowel movements, IBS symptoms, and plenty of other fun things including collapsed lungs. For more information, check out the link to the Center for Endometriosis Care at the bottom of the article.
Why do I think there’s a history of gynecology in general treating women’s fertility as more important than women’s pain? That’s a topic for a whole series of articles, but I’ll give just a few examples. There was the whole “Wandering Wombs” thing. (Thanks, Aristotle and Edward Jorden. You gentlemen were very helpful with this one.) Then gynecology as a medical science was founded on the backs of Black women who were mistreated and not able to fully consent. The first successful IUI patient didn’t know that IUI had been performed on her in her sleep, without her consent or knowledge. And then there’s my personal experience.
Endometriosis can cause infertility and sub-fertility. For some reason, that’s what a lot of people latch onto. It’s not organs being stuck together, coughing up blood (in severe cases my friends — not all), brain fog, or pain so bad that it took 8 hours of pitocin-induced back labor for the pain to get worse than my periods. It’s the fact that Endometriosis can make it difficult or even impossible to have children.
When I was diagnosed via laparoscopic surgery when I was 20, I felt some relief that a doctor had proven it wasn’t all in my head and that a 15cm (6") cyst was removed from my left ovary. I also felt instant dread. I’m not going to lie — I sobbed uncontrollably and became incredibly depressed. I lost a lot of friends and became a little obsessed with making my Endo slow down just a little bit. I weighed what was more important to me — my career or being able to have a baby, and eventually decided that I would start my career and look to adopt a child when I had it together.
Why was I so obsessed with managing my Endo? Every medical professional I saw except for one scared the hell out of me about my chances for children. The ultrasound tech who found the giant cyst on my left ovary told me about her infertility journey as soon as she saw the cyst. (I honestly can’t thank her enough, though. She was so kind and her sympathy and professionalism helped me see that there was a light in fertility journeys.) The doctors who saw me in the ER when I had pain attacks that sent me there told me I wouldn’t be able to have kids past 22. One of them told me to consider “taking the next step” if I was “in a good relationship”. I was told to save up for IVF because there was absolutely no way I would be able to have children without it. When you’re 20 and that’s all you’re hearing about from doctors, that’s all you’re going to think about.
So — I found out I was pregnant (completely surprise and unplanned) when I was 25. I panicked at first because I was NOT where I wanted to be in my career, but I was also so happy. My daughter, Saoirse, is now five months old and absolutely perfect. In having a baby, I achieved what only one doctor thought I would. Everyone focused on my fertility when I was looking for a diagnosis and treatment. I had a baby. By all logic, that should mean I’m better and I defeated my Endo. Right?
Not so much. I love my little girl so, so much, but having her did not mean I’m cured. I still have painful bowel movements and occasional IBS symptoms. I still have painful periods and pain with most sex positions. I still have nausea, migraines, brain fog, fatigue, and pain in my back, hips, and legs. Having Saoirse did not make my Endo go away. Fertility is just one of the many things Endometriosis can affect. It’s not the main symptom.