Endometriosis is a condition where cells similar to those making up the lining of the uterus are found in other parts of the body, commonly the ovaries or fallopian tubes, but it could also be in other areas.
Despite these cells growing in other areas of the body, they still react in the same way as they would in the uterus. Hormones are naturally released in a woman's body, causing the uterine cells to build up each month and form a thick uterine lining for potential pregnancy and then breaking down and bleeding when a pregnancy does not occur.
However, whereas the cells in the womb will leave the body as a period, for the cells in other areas of the body, the blood has no way of leaving and will remain in the body. This build up of blood can lead to inflammation, pain and the formation of scar tissue. It can also lead to very painful or heavy periods and can be debilitating for some.
Unfortunately, it is extremely common and effects around 1.5 million women in the UK alone. The exact cause is unknown and any women of childbearing age could be affected. There are a number of theories as to why it occurs, and it is assumed that a range of factors normally play a part, including a genetic predisposition and environmental factors.
Endometriosis can lead to:
Chronic pain, during periods, during ovulation or after sex
The pain can include lower abdomen, pelvic pain, back pain, leg pain
Heavy and/or prolonged bleeding, bleeding or spotting between periods
Bowel and bladder problems, including bleeding bowel or pain when passing urine
Fatigue/lack of energy
Endometriosis ranges from minimal to severe which is based on how much tissue has grown and where it is in the body, and doesn't necessarily relate to how much pain you feel. Treatment for endometriosis depends on the severity of the symptoms and how much it is affecting your life.
Endometriosis can be a physically debilitating condition, which often leads to emotional difficulties, depression, social isolation and relationship problems.
It can be more difficult to conceive if you suffer from endometriosis and it is now thought that it could lead to a higher incidence of complications in pregnancy. If you have experienced stress relating to your fertility or during you pregnancy, this could have an effect on your emotional state even after the birth of your baby and therefore increase your risk of suffering from post natal depression.
Post natal depression can effect anyone and it likely caused by a combination of factors such as the life changing event of childbirth and previous events in your life. But there are various increased risk factors, including a history of depression, lack of a good support network and stressful life events such as bereavement or financial issues.
Endometriosis does not necessarily increase your risk of experiencing post natal depression, but if you have previously suffered from depression due to your symptoms of endometriosis then you may have a slightly higher risk of developing post natal depression.
It is also worth noting that you have probably experienced a respite in your condition during pregnancy and post birth whilst you are not having monthly cycles. Once you start having periods again, your endometriosis will most likely return. If your condition was debilitating and you begin experiencing these symptoms again after a break, it is possible that this could trigger depressive feelings, especially with the added pressure of looking after your new baby.
If you are suffering with post natal depression, you are not alone, the condition is incredibly common and help is available. If you are concerned about your emotional well-being or are struggling with daily life, then speak to your GP or midwife team as soon as possible, who will be able to offer you the right support.