Melissa knows the pain and frustration that comes with having endometriosis. Diagnosed in her late teens, she was told the only way to reverse her symptoms was to fall pregnant. Now at 34, the mother of two opens up about her early years with endometriosis, what she’s learnt and how she’s still trying to understand the unpredictable condition.
My periods were never that long, three to four days at most, but there was always lots of clotting. At the time I didn’t know any different, but I later found out that wasn’t normal.
I’d been seeing a gynaecologist to help manage my teenage acne so when I noticed some painful abnormal bleeding, I went back to her.
I ended up having an ablation [surgery to remove the lining of the uterus] and was referred to a second gynaecologist. He performed keyhole surgery and then diagnosed the endometriosis.
Everyone’s experience of endo is different, but for me the pain was severe and constant. Going to the toilet it would feel like everything was falling out and my periods were crippling. There would be times I’d be keeling over and my now-husband would have to pick me up off the floor and put me to bed.
At one point, in my early 20s, I had a second round of keyhole surgery to clean out the endo. That was when my doctor told me my case was severe and the endo had wrapped itself around my bowel.
He explained that while fertility was an issue, I needed to get pregnant to get rid of the endo. Basically, I was 22 and my doctor was saying ‘It’s time to have babies!’.
Unfortunately, my experiences with doctors early on weren’t great. To them, my symptoms and potential fertility issues were run of the mill. They didn’t teach me how to track my cycle or connect pain to different stages of my cycle.
My husband and I weren’t ready to start trying for a baby until I approached my late 20s. At that point, my doctor put me on hormone tablets to make me ovulate at the right time but I wasn’t a fan of the medication.
I remember pulling over on the side of the road one day because I had blurred vision – a side effect of the tablets. It was then I decided not to continue on the medication, but we ended up falling pregnant by the end of that month. A few years later, I gave birth to my second child.
It’s only now that I’m really starting to understand my body and pay attention to it, but it’s still complicated. Although I track my cycle, every month can be different.
My periods have become less painful, but very heavy. I bought period undies, but worry at work that I might be leaking. I’ll probably need to go back to my gynaecologist at some point to get it looked at.
For now, I’m seeing a naturopath and riding the wave.
Endometriosis affects everyone differently and treatment options depend on your specific symptoms and stage of life. Be mindful that pregnancy does not cure endometriosis. However, hormonal changes and the lack of periods during pregnancy may improve symptoms for some women. For more information, head to our Endometriosis webpages.