Method Monday: Endometriosis-Awareness Edition
March is Endometriosis Awareness Month! Endometriosis is when tissue from the lining of the uterus (a.k.a. the endometrium) grows outside of the uterus. This condition affects up to 10% of U.S. women of reproductive age and an estimated 176 million women and girls worldwide, yet it often takes years (an average of almost 12, according to some sources!) for women with symptoms to be diagnosed. So, in the spirit of raising awareness, here are a few things we think you should know about endometriosis:
- It affects different people differently. For some women, it has no noticeable symptoms, while for others it can mean pelvic or lower-back pain and possible fertility problems. Women who have endometriosis are also 8 times more likely than women who don’t to have painful periods and 7 times more likely to have an ovarian cyst.
- Birth control can be a treatment for it. The most common treatment for endometriosis is nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like aspirin and ibuprofen, but studies have shown that the pill, the shot, and the hormonal IUD can also reduce the pain associated with endometriosis. When it comes to the pill, extended-cycle pills may be a better option than 28-day-cycle pills.
- Exercise might help too. Some research suggests that getting more than 4 hours a week of exercise can decrease the risk for endometriosis.
- Some women are at higher risk than others. Your risk of endometriosis may be higher if your mother or sister has it; if you have a low body-mass index (BMI); if you started getting your period before age 11; or if your menstrual cycles tend to be on the longer side (more than 5 days). It’s also most common among women 25 to 29 years of age.
About.com has a handy Endometriosis Symptoms Quiz for anyone who thinks they could be among the many women with undiagnosed endometriosis. Of course, if you’re concerned, there’s no substitute for a visit to your health care provider. And if you want to learn more about it, womenshealth.gov has lots of resources. You can also check out endometriosis.org and the Endometriosis Foundation of America (co-founded by none other than Padma Lakshmi of “Top Chef”).
IUDs Winning (As Usual)
We’ll be reporting more detail soon, but in the meantime, since it is Method Monday, we wanted to share a couple news items relating to our beloved IUD.
1) A study out of Europe found that the Mirena IUD is the best way to deal with heavy menstrual bleeding. According to WebMD, the IUD “was found to be superior to oral contraceptives and non-hormonal drugs approved for the treatment of heavy menstrual bleeding in reducing the condition’s effect on quality of life.” Super-effective birth control, super-effective solution to a problem that affects 1 in 4 women? Sounds like winning to us.
2) A new IUD is coming to town. It’s called Skyla, it’s just been approved by the FDA for sale in the U.S., and it’s set to go on the market on February 11th. Skyla uses a low dose of progestin like the Mirena and it works for up to 3 years. It’s not every day that a new birth control option hits the market, let alone a super-effective one. We thought it deserved a happy dance…
More to come!
The best of times, the worst of times: A year with the IUD
So guess what? The cost of birth control can get just as high in Lawrence, Kansas, as it can in New York City. I found that out last month when I traveled to the Midwest to report on dating in a college town. While I was there I spoke to Amanda Sanchez, a student at the University of Kansas who told me she pays $60 a month for the pill—which adds up to $720 a year! Um… I’m not down with paying that now, let alone when I was a broke college student (though I realize it’s still way cheaper than a baby).
Talking with Amanda reminded me why I decided to get a Mirena IUD. On average, the IUD costs about $1,000 every 5 to 10 years—sounds like a lot, but compared to the $3,600 to $7,200 Amanda will spend if she stays with the same pill for 5 to 10 years, it’s a steal.
This June marks my one-year anniversary with the IUD, so to celebrate I thought I’d share the 3 best—and, to be fair, the 3 worst—things about my experience so far.
Best #1: Money money money…
Yes, the upfront cost can be high*, especially for the uninsured like me: I paid $200 for the doctors visit, and almost $500 to get the IUD inserted—but since that initial cost, I haven’t had to budget for getting a prescription written and filled since. And that is a huge financial relief.
Worst #1: Cramps!
Growing up, I would hear girls in high school complain about having bad cramps, but I thought they just wanted an excuse not to do anything in gym class. I never understood how bad cramps could get since I never had them until I got the IUD. Let’s just say I get it now.
Best #2: Shorter, more regular periods
These days my period lasts 3 to 4 days max, whereas before I was a 7 to 8 day girl. And now I can always immediately answer the question every woman has been asked by a doctor or nurse: What was the date of your last period? It now arrives at the same time each month. I can set my watch by it! (Well, almost…)
Worst #2: 6 months in the red (and I’m not talking about debt)
It took over 5 months for those short, regular periods to kick in. For the first few months, let’s just say “Aunt Flow” would not go home. I’m talking 2 weeks at a time, with spotting in between. I was really worried at first, until a doctor told me its totally normal. And then I was merely not amused.
Best #3: Peace of mind
When you know you’re not interested in babies, there is nothing like not having to worry about pregnancy scares. I just came out of a pretty intense relationship with a guy who came with a lot of baby-mama-drama, and it felt good to already have my birth control method in place even before we had our initial “sex talk.” Bonus: it let the guy know right away that I’m in control of what happens to my body, and I know he respected that.
Worst #3: Getting too comfortable
When you’re on a super-effective birth control method and not worried about pregnancy, it can be tempting to make the dumb decision not to use condoms— especially if you trust the person you’re with and you’re in love. Unfortunately, getting pregnant is not the only thing to worry about. HIV/AIDS is all too real, and even the more manageable/curable STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea can have some pretty nasty effects if left untreated. (Scary side note: I was just reading about a drug-resistant form of gonorrhea that has so far been identified in Japan, United Kingdom, Australia, France, Sweden and Norway.)
So as an anniversary gift to myself and my Mirena, I’ll be stocking up on Midol and condoms in preparation for another great year together.
*Up-front IUD costs can be high, but they aren’t always. If you’re wondering how much it would cost for you, Bedsider has more info about IUD costs depending on insurance and income and a free birth control finder widget.
Veralyn Williams is a Multimedia Freelance Journalist currently working in New York City. She has spent 4 years at WNYC Radio working with various departments including: Radio Rookies, Culture, News, and Freakonomincs. Also freelancing for Black Enterprise, BronxNet Television,Bedsider, and The Museum for African Art. Her independent work is featured on her website VeralynMedia.com. Through all of her endeavors she aims to give a voice to perspectives that are often forgotten in the media.