Endometriosis Awareness Month: How you can help your loved ones
Endometriosis is a debilitating reproductive disorder that affects 1 in 10 women worldwide, and is still poorly understood. For an in-depth explanation about the disorder and its current treatments, click here.
In the disorder, the endometrial cells that line the uterus are found in abnormal places, outside of the uterus and typically on the pelvic organs. Their abnormal placement leads to symptoms such as painful cramps, heavy periods, pain with urination, pain with bowel movements, pain with sex and digestive issues.
It's easy to feel a little helpless when your loved one is suffering with an invisible illness, but there are definitely ways you can help. Specifically, Dr Wong Yen Shi – the resident Obstetrics and Gynaecology Specialist from Sunway Medical Centre Velocity – stresses the importance of support groups in navigating an endometriosis diagnosis.
“Although the first and most important step to take is to treat the pain, it is also crucial for the patient to receive support from their family members, partners and friends. The psychological impact of such a debilitating disease should be addressed and not taken lightly as it can affect their social function. Decline in quality of life, negative emotions, stress, anxiety or depression may occur as a result of the pain that they go through.”
Here's how you can show your support:
- Keep touch and check on the patient; ask how you can help
- Be observant to the signs that the patient exhibits when they are going through the pain
- Take notes and follow up with their condition
- Be understanding when they are unable to attend to social events as they may be going through chronic fatigue. “They may tend to isolate themselves as they feel like a burden, so they will appreciate you reaching out,” says Dr Wong.
It seems that Dr Wong isn't the only person who thinks so either—even actress and long-time endometriosis survivor Susan Sarandon has weighed in on the importance of social support with endometriosis: “Suffering should not define you as a woman! And just because you’re a man, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect you! HELP HER to remove the taboos and the loneliness surrounding this disease, be understanding, show empathy, and don’t accuse her of being sensitive, delicate, or overly dramatic—this is a big opportunity for you guys to show that you care and to be a real man!”
The general takeaway messages are:
- Get awareness going for the disorder to remove the stigma and taboo and help your loved ones get the help they need faster
- Be supportive—check on your loved ones and make the effort to acquaint yourself with their condition and their feelings (and definitely don't belittle them!)
- If your loved one hasn't been diagnosed but you suspect they may have endometriosis, send them in the direction of help and support.
If you've been diagnosed with endometriosis and you don't know where to turn for help, the Endometriosis Association of Malaysia (MyEndosis) is a wonderful support group for women in Malaysia with the disorder. Find them on Instagram and Facebook.
For an in-depth guide to what endometriosis is, why it's under-diagnosed and the current treatments available to manage the symptoms, check out our guide for Endometriosis Awareness Month.