Is It a ‘Bad Period’ or Is It Endometriosis?

December 14, 2021   Menstruation & Menopause


“That time of the month” can come with a whole host of challenges: mood swings, bloating, cramps — pass the heating pad!

More than 50 percent of women who menstruate say they have some kind of pain at least one to two days each month. But women with endometriosis often find their period unbearably painful. An average period for them can take the form of completely debilitating cramps. It’s common for endometriosis to be mistaken for a “bad period” and go undiagnosed for a long time, as there are many similarities between endometriosis pain and typical menstrual pain.

But first..what is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a common health problem among females. It affects an estimated 1 in 10 women during their reproductive years (generally between the ages of 15 to 49), which accounts for approximately 176 million women worldwide. It gets its name from the word endometrium — the tissue that lines the uterus (womb) — as endometrial-like tissue grows outside of the uterine cavity. Growths of endometriosis are almost always benign (or not cancerous) but can still be disruptive to your everyday life.

Here are the main symptoms:

  • Pain: this includes menstrual cramps, chronic pain in the lower back and pelvis, pain during intercourse, as well as painful bowel movements
  • Difficulty conceiving
  • Stomach (digestive) problems including diarrhea, constipation, bloating, or nausea, especially during menstrual periods
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Chronic fatigue
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If I have it, what are my options?

The cause of endometriosis is currently unknown, and the condition can’t be prevented. Although there is no cure, there are a variety of treatment options. These are dependent on the extent of the disease, your symptoms, your age, and your plans for getting pregnant in the future. It may be treated with medication, surgery, or both. When pain is described as the primary problem, medication is usually top-of-mind. Medications that are used to treat endometriosis include pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, and hormonal medications, including birth control pills, progestin-only medications, and gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists. Hormonal medications help slow the growth of the endometrial tissue and may keep new adhesions from forming. These drugs typically do not get rid of the endometriosis tissue that is already there.

It’s important to note that painful periods don’t always point directly to endometriosis. If you suspect you have endometriosis, it’s best to talk to your provider so together, you can see what’s really going on and come up with a personalized treatment plan. Pain of any kind should not keep you from living your life to the fullest, especially when it’s a treatable problem that has just gone undiagnosed for too long! Talk to your provider about ways to alleviate the pain so you can focus on life’s joyful moments.


Medications can be helpful for endometriosis symptoms, but there are also many lifestyle changes that can be made to improve pain as well! If you are struggling with endometriosis, consider making an appointment to discuss all the possible options for pain relief.

— Kristin Yates, DO

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