Women's Health Matters

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Taking Control

Women with endometriosis have often been ignored and told the pain is all in their heads. They have put up with being misdiagnosed and treated for diseases that they didn't have. One of the best things a woman can do is take an active role in her health care and stay informed. Not having enough information or understanding can produce further pain and anxiety. Patient education is a crucial part of health care and deserves top priority.

Women who are more assertive about their treatment, have good communication with their doctors, and educate themselves about the disorder are much more likely to respond well to treatments.

Coping with Pain

There are many ways to approach pain. Although there is no perfect solution, there are several things you can do to minimize your pain.

Some doctors recommend meditative type exercises, like tai chi and yoga, to reduce pain. Some studies also show that a regular routine of running, biking, swimming or other aerobic activity, may help to reduce period pain. Some doctors recommend regular weekly exercise if possible. More research is needed to see how effective this really is.

All women should maintain a healthy diet, based on Canada's Food Guide. Some doctors and dietitians recommend that women with endometriosis minimize or eliminate their intake of red meat, as environmental dioxins and PCBs are often stored in animal fat. Women with endometriosis might also benefit from reducing their intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates, which some doctors feel can contribute to inflammation. Reducing the amount of dairy products you consume may also be helpful, since dairy products increase the production of prostaglandins and may increase a woman’s pain. It's important, however, to ensure that you get enough calcium and protein from other sources.

Medical Diary
You can use a medical diary to record descriptions of your pain and other symptoms. Recording the time, length, severity and type of symptoms you are experiencing will help you recognize patterns. Identifying a pattern can help you predict when you are likely to experience pain, which can make it easier to cope with it. A diary can also help you talk about the illness with your doctor.

Coping with Emotions

Many women find that joining a support group for women with endometriosis can be helpful. One study, which looked at women with breast cancer, found that women who shared their feelings and learned pain management methods lived longer. They were also less depressed, felt less pain, and had a more positive outlook than women who just received medical treatment. This is likely the case with endometriosis as well. Being part of a support network also helps to validate your feelings and boost your self-esteem.

Coping with Painful Sex

Unfortunately, about 60 percent of women living with endometriosis experience pain during sex. One way to cope with this is to keep track of when during your cycle it is most painful and try to have sex during the times when the pain is less severe. Keeping a pain diary can help you and your partner plan a time to be intimate. Some women with endometriosis find that a good time is right after their period and before ovulation. But each woman needs to find out what the best times are for her.

Couples might also want to try experimenting with different sexual positions. Because deep penetration is most often the cause of pain, alternative positions should involve as little penetration as possible. Couples can try a spooning position, where they lay side-by-side, or where the woman with endometriosis is on top. Some women find relief from using a vaginal lubricant, especially if they experience vaginal dryness. Or couples may want to be intimate in ways that don't involve any vaginal penetration at all, using the hands and mouth, for example.

More information on how to cope with pain during sex can be found in the Vulvodynia and Interstitial Cystitis Health Centres on this website. You should also discuss these issues with your partner and your doctor to figure out the options that are right for you.


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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital