Erasing Doubts: Is Your Menstrual Discomfort Actually Endometriosis?

Written by Dr Sylvia Kama-Kieghe on Thu, 21 March 2024

Key Highlights

  • Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the uterine lining grows outside the uterus.
  • It can cause severe menstrual discomfort that differs from typical period pain.
  • Symptoms like extreme pain, heavy bleeding, and pain during sex may indicate endometriosis.
  • Early diagnosis can prevent complications and improve quality of life.
  • Various treatments are available depending on the severity and specific symptoms of endometriosis. 

‘Oh, is it that time of the month again?’

If you’re a woman, you’ve probably asked yourself this question more than once. While we all experience our own unique menstrual cycles, one thing that most of us have in common is the dreaded period pain. Often dismissed as just another part of being a woman, this discomfort can sometimes be more than what it appears.

Did you know that approximately 10% of women across the world suffer from endometriosis, a condition that often goes undiagnosed due to its similarity to regular menstrual discomfort? Yes, that nagging pain could be something more serious.

Today, we’re going to tackle a topic that is often shrouded in confusion – endometriosis. This blog will help you understand the key differences between standard period pain and signs of endometriosis.

So, get cozy, and let’s shed some light on those monthly cramps and how they might be telling you more about your health than you think!

Understanding endometriosis

Understanding endometriosis

Endometriosis is a health condition that primarily affects women, particularly those of reproductive age. This ailment occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus, called endometrium, starts growing in places outside the uterus. It can involve your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the tissue lining your pelvis. In rare scenarios, it can expand beyond pelvic organs.

The displaced tissue behaves the same way it would within your uterus. It thickens, breaks down, and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. As it has no way to exit your body, it becomes trapped and can cause a host of problems, including cysts, irritation, and scar tissue. If not addressed timely, endometriosis can lead to severe pain and fertility issues.

Normal menstrual discomfort vs. endometriosis: What’s the difference?

Many women experience menstrual discomfort associated with their cycles. This can include bloating, mild cramping, and mood swings, which are all normal symptoms.

However, endometriosis presents differently than regular menstrual discomfort. Its symptoms might be more severe or persistent and often extend beyond the duration of the menstrual period itself.

Endometriosis is characterized by chronic pelvic pain that usually doesn’t go away with over-the-counter pain relievers.

Women with endometriosis often report experiencing heavier periods or bleeding between periods. These factors distinguish endometriosis from normal menstrual discomfort.

Five signs your period pain could be endometriosis

1. Pain interfering with daily life

  • One of the key indicators that your period pain could be associated with endometriosis is if it significantly disrupts your routine or activities.
  • While some level of discomfort during menstruation is normal, persistent and intense pain that hinders your ability to work, attend school, or engage in social activities should not be overlooked.
  • This type of pain can impact various aspects of life, causing distress and affecting overall well-being.

2. Pain extending beyond the lower abdomen

  • Endometriosis-related pain is not confined to the lower abdomen. It can also radiate to other areas, such as the hips and lower back. If you experience discomfort in these regions during menstruation or throughout the month, it may be a sign of underlying issues such as endometriosis.
  • This type of pain can be sharp, stabbing, or throbbing and may worsen over time if left untreated.

3. Consistent pain throughout the month

  • While endometriosis is commonly associated with menstrual periods, its effects can extend beyond that time frame.
  • Women with endometriosis may experience persistent discomfort throughout the month, not just during menstruation. This chronic pain can be disruptive and challenging to manage, impacting various aspects of daily life. It's essential to pay attention to any ongoing pain and discuss it with a healthcare provider.

4. Severity of period pain

  • While menstrual cramps are a typical aspect of menstruation, excessively painful periods that interfere with daily activities or require medication for relief could indicate endometriosis.
  • Endometriosis-related pain is often described as severe, sharp, or stabbing and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, or diarrhea.
  • If your period pain is consistently severe and difficult to manage, it’s essential to seek medical advice.

5. Additional symptoms

  • In addition to period pain, endometriosis can present with a range of other symptoms. These may include painful intercourse, rectal bleeding, pain during urination, bloating, or infertility issues.
  • Recognizing these signs alongside period pain can provide valuable insights into potential underlying conditions and help guide treatment decisions.

The importance of early diagnosis

The importance of early diagnosis

Endometriosis is a complex health condition that can significantly impact a woman’s quality of life.

However, with early diagnosis and proper management strategies in place, it’s possible to control its symptoms and lead a healthy, fulfilling life.

  • Early diagnosis empowers individuals to take proactive steps toward managing their condition, allowing for the initiation of appropriate treatment strategies tailored to their needs.
  • This may include a combination of medical therapies such as pain medications, hormonal treatments, or lifestyle adjustments to alleviate symptoms and enhance overall well-being.
  • For individuals with more severe cases, early detection facilitates prompt referral to specialists for consideration of surgical intervention, which can effectively alleviate symptoms and improve fertility outcomes.


Remember, if you’re experiencing severe period pain or any of the symptoms listed above, it’s crucial to talk with your healthcare provider. They can help determine if endometriosis is causing your symptoms and work with you to develop an effective treatment plan.

Taking control of your health and well-being starts with understanding your body and seeking help when something doesn't feel right.

Frequently Asked Questions

It's not easy to determine if your period pain is a result of endometriosis. However, there are certain signs you could look for. These include severe menstrual cramps that don't improve with over-the-counter medications, chronic lower back and pelvic pain, periods that last longer than seven days, and heavy menstrual bleeding. 

While there isn't a definitive cure for endometriosis right now, there are various treatments available. These range from hormone therapy and pain medication to surgical procedures. Each person's body responds differently to these treatments, so it’s important to discuss with your healthcare provider what options may work best for you. 

Absolutely! A balanced diet, regular exercise, and stress management techniques can all play a key role in managing symptoms of endometriosis. While they don't replace medical treatment, they can help reduce inflammation, boost your immune system, and improve your overall quality of life. 

Neutraceuticals - foods or food products that provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition - can be a valuable part of managing endometriosis symptoms. For instance, omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce inflammation associated with endometriosis. Similarly, certain vitamins like Vitamin D are known to boost immune health which could potentially help your body better manage this condition. 

While being aware of the signs and symptoms of endometriosis is important, self-diagnosing is not recommended. Endometriosis is a complex medical condition that requires a professional diagnosis. If you suspect you may have endometriosis, make an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss your symptoms and next steps. 

While endometriosis can contribute to fertility issues, it does not make it impossible to conceive. Many women with endometriosis have successful pregnancies. If you're concerned about your fertility, discuss this with your healthcare provider to understand the unique aspects of your case and explore potential treatment strategies. 

Yes, there are a few ways to diagnose endometriosis. Doctors may use pelvic exams, ultrasounds, or MRI scans to detect the condition. Sometimes, a definitive diagnosis might require laparoscopic surgery. 


Dr Sylvia Kama-Kieghe

Dr Sylvia Kama-Kieghe is a UK-based General Practitioner with a special interest in Women's Health and founder of Askawayhealth. She's also a tutor and medical student examiner. She is a Fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners (FRCGP), Fellow of the Royal Society of Public Health (FRSPH), Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine (FRSM), and holds a Diploma of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (DFSRH).

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Current Version

Mar, 21 2024

Written By

Dr Sylvia Kama-Kieghe

Mar, 20 2024

Written By

Dr Sylvia Kama-Kieghe