Endometriosis is a condition thought to affect at least 10% of women. It happens when tissue (endometrium) that normally lines the inside of the uterus forms pockets in abnormal places around the pelvis such as the tubes, ovaries, behind the vagina and near the rectum.
During a women's normal menstrual cycle the endometrium thickens and is then shed away causing a period. With endometriosis the abnormal tissue swells and as there is no actual opening for the blood to escape, there is further swelling and often pain. The most common symptom of endometriosis is pain. The pain usually begins before a period and gradually declines after the period starts. There may be associated pain either during or after sex. The swollen tissue can press on structures such as the tubes, ovaries and bowels. This can cause infertility problems and bowel symptoms with menstruation.
Endometriosis should particularly be considered when a woman has increasingly severe pain or unexplained infertility. Women with severe endometriosis may have few or no symptoms. Endometriosis is diagnosed by laparoscopy which is a surgical procedure done under general anaesthetic. A small instrument that can view the pelvis is inserted through a cut below the umbilicus and any endometriosis present can be seen and often treated. There is a range of treatments available, so it is important to consider all options and discuss them with your doctor or Family Planning Clinic.