Around one in ten people in the UK is thought to have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – a condition that affects the digestive system and causes symptoms such as stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea, and constipation.
It’s often thought to be triggered by stress, oversensitive guts and family history.
However, for those with periods, these symptoms can actually be indicative of bowel endometriosis. Bowel endometriosis symptoms also include:
- Pain on opening the bowels
- Deep pelvic pain during sex
- Rectal bleeding during a period
Bowel endometriosis sufferers experience these symptoms more severely just before or during their menstrual periods. The level of pain experienced does vary from person to person - from mild or no pain to so severe that you cannot undertake your day-to-day activities.
“I Woke Up With A Stoma Bag”
HuffPost UK spoke to influencer and activist Tanya Aumeer about her experience with bowel endometriosis.
Tanya suffered with endometriosis for nine years before she was made aware that it could spread to her bowel: ”I experienced weight loss from not retaining food, severe bloating, a constant need for the toilet, rectal bleeding and I developed food intolerances.
“As I went back to the doctors, no-one had informed me that endometriosis could spread to the bowel (and other organs).”
“During this time, I was given several forms of the contraceptive pill, hormonal coil and induced medical menopause in an attempt to treat my endometriosis.
“When I eventually had my laparoscopy, I woke up with a stoma bag as the endometriosis had impacted my bowel so much that not having one was not an option.
“I had deep-infiltrating endometriosis whereby my pelvic organs were stuck to my bowel, bladder and urethra. I now live life with a bag on my stomach and do as much as I can to raise awareness of endometriosis.”
Access To Treatment And Support At The Right Time Is Vital
According to Endometriosis UK, timing is crucial when it comes to managing endo. The sooner it’s diagnosed, the better managed it can become.
They shared: “The NICE Guideline on Endometriosis Diagnosis and Management (source) states that patients should be referred to a specialist endometriosis service (endometriosis centre) if they have suspected or confirmed deep endometriosis involving the bowel, bladder or ureter.
“However, we know that this isn’t always implemented, and it’s vital that healthcare practitioners ensure the guideline is followed so that everyone has access to the right care at the right time.”
How Bowel Endometriosis Is Diagnosed
If you think you may be suffering with bowel endometriosis, speak to your GP who will refer you for one of the following diagnosis techniques:
- Vaginal examination
- Sigmoidoscopy or laparoscopy - operations to look inside your bowel and abdomen respectively
- CT and/or MRI scan - if deep endometriosis is suspected
Prior to diagnosis, it may also be worthwhile keeping a log of your symptoms and how often they occur around your menstrual period. Not only will this help you plan for flare-up days but will also help to inform your GP of the severity and regularity of your symptoms.