The nzgirl Guide to Endometriosis

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An estimated one in five New Zealand girls and women has endometriosis. Pretty crazy considering most of you will be reading this thinking ‘endo…. what?’

This is why we took the opportunity to interview Andrea Molloy, author of the just released book Endometriosis a New Zealand Guide.

Andrea is a highly respected New Zealand life coach. She’s 32 years old but was diagnosed with ‘endo’ when she was 24. In this book Andrea gives information on endometriosis, symptoms, diagnosis and management of the condition

In simple terms, what is endometriosis?
A condition where cells that are similar to those that line the uterus grow in other areas causing pain and inflammation from the cell growth.

What are some symptoms nzgirls should be aware of?
Do you:

  • Take medication for painful periods every month?
  • Need to take time off work or school when you have your period or require bed rest?
  • Experience heavy bleeding or long periods?
  • Have pain midway through your cycle or during sex?
  • Experience pain when you have a full bladder or when urinating?
  • Suffer from painful bowel motions, or have diarrhoea or constipation related to your periods?
  • Have a mother or sister who has had similar symptoms or has been diagnosed with endometriosis?If you answer ‘yes’ to even a few of these symptoms there is a possibility you may have endometriosis.Who is at risk of getting endometriosis?
    All girls and women experiencing periods are at risk, there is also an increased risk if you’ve got a mother or sister with endo. Don’t forget to check out your family history as your mum may have had gynaecological problems but not been diagnosed with endo as more people are aware of it now. The positives about endo are it’s not life threatening, it’s not contagious and it’s not an STD.

    If diagnosed, what next?
    Endometriosis is diagnosed through laparoscopic (key-hole) surgery and it can be cut out at the same time as the diagnosis is made. This is done under general anaesthetic by a specialist gynaecologist and generally takes 60-90 minutes. If endometriosis is confirmed make sure you get support from your partner, GP, family and friends regarding longer-term management of the condition.

    Does it affect fertility?
    Just because you have endo don’t jump to the conclusion you can’t have children. Not all women who have endo will have fertility problems, and if you do there are many options like ART (Assisted Reproductive Therapies) available.

    What are some of the recommended options for managing endo?
    Medical options include drug treatments, hormone therapy and painkillers working alongside your doctor, with surgery the most commonly recommended. You also need to take control of your life by eating well, exercising, and investigating alternative therapies. Try different things so you can work out over time what does and doesn’t work.

    What are some of the alternative remedies that have worked for you?
    Aside of surgery; a registered dietician had the most profound effect on my life. It helped my energy levels, allowing more exercise. I have also tried a range of alternative therapies, like massage, hypnotherapy for managing the pain, aromatherapy and deep breathing techniques.

    What inspired you to write a book about endometriosis, other than the fact you have this condition yourself?
    This is the book I’ve wanted to write since first being diagnosed. I found there was very little information on endo, and information that was available was in large medical textbooks. I wanted to read something that was more applicable and relevant to me. As I had further surgeries I became increasingly open about endo and discovered more women who have it or had experienced similar symptoms.

    I wanted to raise awareness, allowing women to have that ‘light-bulb’ moment. The book gives women the medical and technical info needed, including the day-to-day things; what to expect, and how to live with a condition like this.

    When did you start noticing something wasn’t right?
    I was a late bloomer and found I had problems along with a lot of pain from the very first day of my first period, at about 17 years of age. I could barely walk and it got progressively worse. I’ve had times where I was taken away from work in an ambulance. More symptoms crept in and then my sister was diagnosed – she’d had a sudden rush of symptoms, which got her diagnosed a lot more quickly.

    What positives have you taken from your experiences?
    It’s made me re-evaluate my life, if it wasn’t for endometriosis there is no way I would be doing all the things I am doing. It’s made me focus more on what I want to do and realise that with a limited feel good factor in a month, I only do what I need to do – but will push myself to do the things I want to do. It’s not a life sentence and while there have been bad times I have still been able to live a successful life – get married, travel, a career.

    And, your message to nzgirls?
    Be aware of your own body, if something doesn’t seem right get professional expert advice. Remember even if you do have endometriosis you can still be fulfilled and successful. Ensure you lead a healthy life. Any wake-up call like this gives you the get up and go to make the most out of life.

    Who should nzgirls contact if they have any health concerns or would like to investigate further?
    Talk to your GP, who will refer you to a specialist or to a centre specialising in endometriosis. Also try the Endometriosis Foundation www.nzendo.co.nz, or the support line 0800 733 277.

    Andrea’s book uses clear and understandable terms, as well as being compassionate and truly personal. She gives the reader an insight not only to her own experiences with endo, but also snippets of other women’s stories, including food writer Allyson Gofton, author Maggie Eyre and musician Kirsten Morelle of Goldenhorse.

    Endometriosis a New Zealand Guide is available in bookstores, $27.99 rrp.

    Michelle Wannan

    Thank you to Andrea Molloy for her approval to use references and quotes from her book.

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