Recent statistics from a study by the Monash University Behavioural Science Laboratory have revealed that women with endometriosis have poor mental health and wellbeing.
Women with endometriosis reported moderate levels of depression, anxiety and stress and poorer self-reported wellbeing than the general population and other common chronic medical conditions
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a common condition that affects approximately 1 in 10 women. It occurs when tissue similar to the endometrium, which normally lines the uterus, is found in abnormal sites around the body.
Endometriosis symptoms vary from person to person and some women may have no symptoms at all.
The two main symptoms that endometriosis causes are:
- Pain – the pain occurs in the places that the endometriosis has grown. It is mostly in the pelvis. It is mostly ‘cyclical’, which means that it happens with your period. For many women, the first thing they notice is worsening pain with periods. Women with endometriosis often have pain with sex too.
- Trouble getting pregnant (sub-fertility or infertility) – endometriosis can make it difficult to get pregnant. Some women only have endometriosis diagnosed when they start trying to get pregnant.
How Does Endometriosis Affect Women’s Mental Health and Wellbeing?
A study of over 2000 women with a diagnosis of endometriosis conducted by the Monash University Behavioural Science Laboratory found that women with endometriosis had moderate levels of depression, anxiety and stress. The study also reported that women with endometriosis symptoms had poor self-reported wellbeing, worse than the general population average and other chronic conditions such as HIV. Interestingly, the study found that women aged 25 and under had the poorest mental health and self-reported wellbeing.
“It kills your spirit. You do not view the world the same way, you are jilted and see yourself as a helpless soul, trapped in a diseased useless body”
Poor mental health and self-reported wellbeing appeared to be due in part to endometriosis symptoms. Key predictors of poor mental health and self-reported wellbeing in women with endometriosis were:
- Pain after sex
- Pain before and during menstruation
- Pain in the upper legs/thighs
- Ovulation pain
- Back pain
- Pelvic floor muscle spasms
- Irregular bleeding
- Bleeding from the bowel
- Bladder issues
“When I have pain, it affects everything. When I don’t have pain I am the happiest, most grateful person alive”
What can be done?
Findings from this study evidence that endometriosis can have an adverse impact on women’s mental health and wellbeing, highlighting the need for a multidisciplinary approach in endometriosis treatment involving psychological support for women to reduce the negative effects of endometriosis and its symptoms.
Women with endometriosis suggested the following services:
- More support services for women with endometriosis and their partners/ families
- More education (e.g. information sessions, leaflets)
- Access to medical services post diagnosis (e.g. family planning consultations, pain management)
78% of women believed that counselling would be useful after a diagnosis and 68% said they need more social and psychological support
Biography: Georgia Rush is a final year PhD candidate at Monash University in Melbourne. Her research focuses on the psychosocial effects of Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.