Your Initial Endometriosis Exam

woman texting on couch( — If you’re like most women with endometriosis, you’ve been concerned about your pelvic pain and other unusual symptoms for quite some time. You may not have been taken seriously at first. Parents, friends, and even doctors may have dismissed your symptoms as a normal part of being female. But deep down, you knew your symptoms weren’t normal. At some point, you decided to listen to that voice inside you. And now you’re going for your initial appointment with the gynecologist.

To make sure the doctor has all the information he or she needs in order to develop an appropriate treatment plan for you, it’s important to be well-prepared for this first appointment. Think about your answers to the below questions ahead of time so you can give the doctor all the information he or she needs to help you. If it helps you to remember, you may want to record all your answers in a small notebook and bring it with you to all of your appointments.

Basic Questions

Most gynecologists ask several basic questions at every appointment, including the first appointment you make to discuss endometriosis concerns:

• Date of your first menstrual period
• Date of your most recent menstrual period
• Duration of your period
• Type of flow (heavy, medium light)
• Are your cycles regular (every 28 to 30 days) or irregular?
• What medications, including birth control pills, hormones and/or supplements, do you take on a regular basis?
• Have you had any previous illness, including sexually-transmitted diseases? If so, please list them.
• Have you had any surgeries? If so, what were the dates.
• List your immediate family’s major illnesses and diseases.
• List all known allergies.
• Do you use tobacco? If yes, how much and how often?
• Do you drink alcohol? If yes, how much and how often?
• Do you or have ever used illegal drugs? If yes, how much and how often?
• Do you have pain with your menstrual periods?

Specific Pain Questions

Many women with endometriosis report significant amounts of pain: bowel pain, period pain, etc. Your doctor will be very interested in any type of pain you’re suffering from. In general, they’ll will ask:

• When did your pain start?
• Where is the pain?
• How severe is the pain (severe, moderate or mild)?
• Is the pain getting worse?
• Do you have pain during or after sexual intercourse?
• Painful bowel movements?
• Pelvic pain when exercising?
• Type of pain? (Endometriosis pain is usually described as burning, stabbing, gnawing, cramping, jabbing, throbbing, cold, sharp, aching, or pressure)
• Are you in pain right now?
• How many days of each month are you in pain?
• How does the pain impact your life?
• What medications have you taken to try alleviating the pain?

Other Symptoms

In sharing basic and pain-specific information, your doctor will also want to know about additional ailments that also tend to be symptoms of endometriosis:

• Do you routinely experience nausea with menstruation?
• Do you vomit during menstruation?
• Do you have unusual vaginal bleeding at any time during your cycle?
• Do you experience painful urination or blood in urine at any time during your cycle?
• Do you have difficulty gaining or losing weight?
• Do you experience fatigue?

Discussing Symptoms With Your Doctor

Seeing a doctor about pelvic pain and other troubling gynecological symptoms can be rather uncomfortable. Teenagers are especially self-conscious in the gynecologist’s office. However, it is vitally important to carefully explain your symptoms and to be completely honest about everything that’s bothering you. Providing accurate information is the key to evaluating your current condition. By doing so, you’re helping to ensure a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Can Omega-3's Protect Against Endometriosis?

Omega 3s( — Doctors don’t know exactly what causes endometriosis — a painful condition in which tissue that normally lines the uterus starts growing on other organs in the body, such as the ovaries, bladder, or bowels. The condition is not only painful, it can also cause fertility problems. But a new pair of studies seem to suggest that paying attention to what we eat and put on our bodies could significantly reduce the risk of developing the condition.

THE DETAILS: In a study looking at endometriosis and the types of fat women eat, researchers analyzed 12 years of data and found that while total fat consumption was not associated with endometriosis risk, the women who ate the most omega-3 fatty acids were 22 percent less likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis when compared to the group that ate the lowest amount. On the flip side, the most unhealthy fats, trans fats, increased the risk of developing endometriosis by nearly 50 percent.

The second study investigating a lifestyle link to developing endometriosis found that women exposed to phthalates, specifically a certain type called mono-butyl phthalate, were more likely to develop endometriosis than women with the lowest level of these phthalates in their bodies. Phthalates are plastics chemicals found in fragranced candles, shampoos, makeup, and other personal-care products, as well as vinyl products, and their estrogenic properties have been shown to cause genital deformities in baby boys and disrupt our bodies’ hormonal system.

WHAT IT MEANS: There are hundreds of studies that link what we eat and absorb through our skin with all sorts of ills, including diabetes, obesity, and even some cancers. These recent studies looking at endometriosis, fat intake, and chemical exposure through food and beauty products mark the latest evidence supporting the fact that lifestyle choices can affect fertility. Besides trouble conceiving, endometriosis causes miserable pain and heavy periods, and is often treated with pain meds and hormones, which have their own side effects, or even surgery.

Here are some steps you can take that may cut your risk of developing endometriosis.

Up your omega-3 intake. Work healthy omega-3s into your diet by eating flaxseeds and fish, and by taking the best fish oil supplements. Your best, most complete omega 3 foods containing DHA, EPA and DPA are salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies, herring and mackerel. Good food sources of plant based Omega-3 are walnuts, soy beans and tofu. Cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, are also good sources.

Opt-out of eating trans fat-filled foods. Stay away from anything with partially hydrogenated oil on the ingredients label. While many companies are steering away from using trans fats because of all the bad press, it is still around, and even in movie theater popcorn. You’ll also benefit from steering clear of artery-clogging trans fats substitutes, such as exotic palm and coconut oils.

Don’t sicken yourself trying to look good. Phthalates are plasticizing chemicals that make cosmetics and fragrances stick to your body longer. They are also in pretty much anything using artificial fragrances, and are hormone disruptors. Avoid perfumes and body sprays, and opt for fragrance-free shampoos and personal-care products, or ones scented with essential oils.
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