As with so much else in our lives, the coronavirus pandemic has brought endometriosis diagnosis and treatment to a standstill. Laparoscopic surgeries have been deemed “elective” and therefore postponed or cancelled; the same applies to MRIs, ultrasounds, and endometriosis-related infertility treatments. Many women struggling with the disease are unable to visit primary care providers, seek a definitive diagnosis, or access the treatment they need.
This means thousands, if not millions, of women are left to deal with often excruciating pain in the midst of a pandemic. To make matters worse, the additional life stressors many women are experiencing during this period, from economic concerns to unexpected homeschooling, can exacerbate endometriosis symptoms.
We don’t yet know whether endometriosis puts one at higher risk for COVID-19. As Endometriosis.org wrote in May, “There is no evidence yet that shows those with endometriosis are at an increased risk of getting COVID-19.“ Neither is there “evidence that COVID-19 will accelerate the progression/development of endometriosis.” But that observation has little effect on patients’ lived experiences today.
According to the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR), there are a few steps women can take to manage endometriosis pain during this unprecedented time. These include:
While these practices are not one-size-fits-all solutions—and though they will likely not eliminate pain entirely—they can serve as stopgaps until this pandemic slows. And as SWHR emphasizes, it’s essential to consult with your doctor to make decisions that work for you.
This public health crisis has had dramatic impacts on individual women struggling with endometriosis—but it has also exposed underlying vulnerabilities and inequalities [link to gender inequality blog] that shape women’s healthcare more broadly. During this pandemic, many women are:
These challenges are not new, but the novel coronavirus pandemic presents a unique opportunity to reshape the status quo in support of women’s health. Now is the time to make lasting changes that can expand healthcare access, establish health equity, and serve all women.
Photo source: Vladislav Muslakov