Very few women look forward to “time of the month,” but for some of them it is more than just a minor inconvenience. Like any other organ in the body, the female reproductive system is also capable of having deviations from what is considered normal. One of these abnormalities is called endometriosis. This occurs when tissue that is typically inside the uterus grows outside of it, resulting in especially painful menstruation and more difficulty conceiving. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that about 10% of women worldwide have endometriosis.

Besides dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual cycles), other symptoms include:

  • Heavy bleeding
  • Pain while using the restroom
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Other symptoms of physical illness during menstruation, such as nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and excessive tiredness 

Some women with endometriosis call themselves “spoonies,” which refers to a person living with any chronic illness. The term was coined by Christine Miserandio, a popular blogger who lives with lupus (SLE). She described living with her disease as only having so many “spoons” to use every day before she runs out of energy. “These illnesses are often invisible; to most people, spoonies may appear healthy and able-bodied, especially when they are young,” Sophie Cowley, a woman who suffers from chronic migraines. This is appropriate for women with endometriosis because someone who has the condition certainly does not “look” sick compared to someone with a more “obvious” disease. Unfortunately, the topic of menstruation is often swept under the rug by the general public, and others may mistake a woman’s pain for being “dramatic” or “moody.”

In this interview, Anthony Padilla, a popular YouTube star with more than 6 million subscribers and formerly a member of the Smosh channel, sits down with three women who have been diagnosed with endometriosis, who share their personal experiences and their struggles with the often misunderstood disorder.

When it comes to women’s health, it is important to start acknowledging endometriosis because those living with it do not deserve to suffer in silence. If you suffer from menstrual pain that makes living your day-to-day life seem impossible, then it is time to seek help from a gynecologist. Be as open as possible about your symptoms so that your doctor can diagnose the problem. If you feel your current medical professional is not providing you with the care you need, do not be afraid to look for a new one or seek a second opinion. Endometriosis can be diagnosed through a variety of methods, including an ultrasound, a pelvic exam, laparoscopy, or magnetic resonance imaging. It is also possible to experience endometriosis symptoms without actually having it. Even if your doctor finds that you do not have endometriosis, another medical condition may be found. Your gynecologist should be able to prescribe you the appropriate treatment to manage your painful symptoms.

As we aim to be more open and understanding about the medical needs of the people around us, you must also acknowledge that your health is of your utmost importance. If you ever have a problem, speak up about it and seek the care that you need.