Read our clinical update on a new online endometriosis resource for patients, their partners and nurses.
Endometriosis is the presence of endometrial-like (womb lining) tissue outside the uterus, which induces a chronic, inflammatory reaction. Up to one in 10 women and up to 50% of infertile women are believed to have the condition, which can be painful and debilitating. It can have a significant impact on quality of life, and on the lives of partners. Research has found that men are often marginalised in relation to endometriosis, with little information and support available.
A new resource on the impact on the relationships of women affected with endometriosis has been published by charity Endometriosis UK. This information, for women, their partners and health professionals, says that the condition can have a negative impact on couples' quality of life in complex, multidimensional ways. Sex and intimacy, having children, quality of life and finances can all be affected by the condition.
Symptoms include painful periods, deep pain during sex, chronic pelvic pain, painful bowel movements and urination and premenstrual symptoms with or without abnormal bleeding and pain. Chronic fatigue, depression, infertility, painful caesarean section scar or cyclical lump, and back, leg and chest pain are also common symptoms.
The causes are unknown, but endometriosis mainly affects girls and women of childbearing age. It's less common in women who have been through the menopause.
How you can help your patient
Be alert to the symptoms of endometriosis to support early diagnosis, as it currently takes women an average of seven years to be diagnosed. Acknowledge the impact it can have on relationships and partners when discussing with families and their partners. Support referral to specialist services and signpost support groups, such as Endometriosis UK.
Wendy Norton, senior lecturer in sexual health at De Montfort University, Leicester
'Endometriosis has a significant impact on day to day life for women, partners and the couple relationship. This resource is useful for couples, and also for nurses to better understand the impact of this condition and to empower women to access the support available to help them manage the condition.
'The resource provides practical advice such as encouraging couples to communicate openly, acknowledge and address the long-term issues the condition may cause, and to seek practical solutions to manage symptoms. Women may delay seeking help, as they and some healthcare professionals, perceive that painful periods are normal. But debilitating period pain is not normal and women need to be encouraged to seek referral to help speed up a definitive diagnosis.’
Find out more
- Endometriosis and couples
- RCN endometriosis fact sheet
- ENDOPART study into endometriosis and couples
- Chronic pelvic pain: causes, mechanisms and effects (Nursing Standard, 2011)
- Jane Bates: Time to raise the profile of endometriosis (Nursing Standard, 2017)