One of the biggest symptoms and often ignored signs that women have with endometriosis is period pain. We simply believe it is normal to have period pain. Our mom had it, our friends have it and so I guess we have it too. The thing is, pain can’t be measured and it certainly can’t be seen so knowing whether you period pain is comparable to what is considered “normal” is often quite hard. I know many of us have simply ignored the pain for years and simply took period pain tablets from the pharmacy thinking this was normal. For me, the big light bulb moment came when the basic period pain drugs from the pharmacy were simply not enough. I needed stronger and stronger medication and I was taking the maximum allowed volume for every day of my period and between my periods.
For some of us, this is usually when we recognize that there might be something more severe going on, or at least I hope so!
So, what do other women experience? How do we know if our period pain is endometriosis or simply considered the standard period pain other women get?
- Length of pain. Women with endometriosis often suffer the most for the first two days but they still continue to have pain right throughout the full length of the period. Often into days 3 and 4 and even 5.
- Frequency of pain. When you have endometriosis, it is likely that you will have period pain every single month. Women who don’t have endometriosis have pain every now and again. They might be a little more sore during stressful times but overall they don’t have severe pain every single month.
- Able to run around and do exercise. I know this was the biggest signal for me! Endometriosis knocks you. It doesn’t just make you sore but you can’t do any strenuous exercise. I get incredibly nauseous and faint when I try. The pain is also much more intense if I run around or do anything physically demanding. Women without endometriosis are able to still do some level of physical activity without too much pain. I know a girl who went running up and down hills on her first day of her period. I totally looked at her with envy for that one!
- Feeling pain in a particular spot during your period. Generally your period pain should feel like a slight cramping and elimination of fluids (I guess like a soft case of diarrhea). Women with endometriosis often feel pain in a particular spot, left or right of the abdomen before and during their period.
- Accompanied by other conditions and symptoms. When you have endometriosis, you are likely to experience other symptoms along with your period. Things like diarrhea, constipation, skin break-outs, painful muscles and aches and pains in your joints, high levels of PMS symptoms before your periods and headaches, migraines, nausea and even heightened allergy symptoms. You are likely to feel particularly run down, you might catch a cold or get a sore throat. Women often have trouble passing urine and experience pain going to the toilet. It all feels really swollen and sore when you go and then when you’ve gone, you feel like you need to go again! I used to literally get sick from my period. I would get such a bad case of hormones that I would throw up.
- Feeling really tired. It is normal to feel a little tired when you get your period as your body is excreting and moving things out. When you have endometriosis though, you are physically exhausted. You find everything hard and tiring and energy draining. You find simple tasks too much and everything becomes difficult because you’re sore and tired. You need to go to bed early as your eyes are literally dropping to sleep, especially on your first and second day.
- You are extra emotional. Women with endometriosis often get emotional when they get their period and even during their period. Most women actually “release” many of their emotions (PMS symptoms) once they start their period where we actually seem to get more emotional. It might be because of other factors, including being tired and sore but many of us seem to actually feel quite depressed and overcome with things being “too hard” during our period. I know for me, my period is always a time when I tend to feel quite “low” and negative.
- Your best time of the month is the week after your period. You have energy and feel positive and light. Your stomach isn’t bloated and you seem to glide through life. This is the time when you have the most energy and you feel little or no pain. This is because it is the time when your hormones are “resting” and not as active. Women without endometriosis don’t notice this extreme lapse in how they feel about their health and energy levels.
- Do you bloat up to the point where you need to buy a whole extra size during your period time? This is a distinctive sign that something is not right. Endometriosis causes bloating and swelling of the abdominal area for most women. I know I have special “period pain” clothes to ensure I am comfortable and hide the bulge during that time!
- The stuff that comes out. This is kinda yucky but it is really important to wear a pad rather than tampons, so you can actually see what comes out. When you suffer from endometriosis, it is likely that the stuff that comes out is dark red, almost brown and slightly lumpy. When things are better or normal, they go a more red color. This does not apply if you are on the pill as the pill prevents ovulation and the bleeding you are experiencing is not a real period.
So, I hope this helps you determine whether your period is normal or if you already know you have endometriosis it can give you the signs on whether your endometriosis is improving. If you have a close girlfriend you feel comfortable sharing with, ask her what her experience is like. Does she have all the symptoms you have? Does she experience pain with every period? What similarities or differences can you pick up?
Endometriosis is such a hard condition to diagnose, even just for yourself because the symptoms just don’t seem that obvious. You often don’t associate other symptoms with period pain or simply think you are “overly stressed” or that you perhaps just “ate something you shouldn’t have”. There are so many women with endo now—1 in 7 women and so many of us still have no idea we have it!
The hardest thing is not leaving it too long before you make changes to healing your body.