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Women’s health and maternity matters: Early diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis is key

Endometriosis is the second most common gynaecological condition in the UK affecting one in 10 women and those assigned female at birth of reproductive age.

What is endometriosis?

It's where cells similar to the ones in the lining of the womb are found elsewhere in the body such as on the ovaries, fallopian tubes and peritoneum - the lining of our abdominal cavity.

The cause of endometriosis is unknown but it can have a significant impact on wellbeing. Symptoms most commonly present as chronic and severe abdominal pain and fatigue which impacts all aspects of life.

There is no cure for endometriosis but if diagnosed early there are treatments to manage the condition and improve quality of life and fertility.

The data shows endometriosis is a very common condition impacting a large number of women; yet on average it takes eight years from the onset of symptoms to get a diagnosis.

Health inequality

Health inequality is a key issue to be addressed in our healthcare system.  Until July 2022, training on issues relating to women's health was not a mandatory aspect of doctors' training.  As part of the initiative by the Department of Health and Social Care, the NHS and training programmes from 2024 will now be required to address women's health in more detail.  A commitment of this strategy is to improve fertility services and updating guidance on specific conditions such as endometriosis.

Health inequality around endometriosis also has a significant impact on maternity care.  A recent study looking at birth rates found that women who suffer from endometriosis but have not yet been diagnosed have half the live birth rate of women who do not suffer from the condition.

The findings of the study suggest that when a doctor sees a woman suffering from painful menstruation and chronic pelvic pain, they should keep in mind the possibility of endometriosis and treat them effectively.

Early diagnosis and treatment is key

As a medical negligence lawyer, I've supported a number of clients with the condition and have seen the devastating impact the lack of a diagnosis can have on their lives, including years of pain.  

It's also been widely acknowledged that women's pain is often underestimated by medical professionals, causing additional distress for patients.

For women who want to have children, early diagnosis and treatment for endometriosis is key to improve fertility.  Sadly, women with undiagnosed endometriosis are more likely to suffer miscarriages or stillbirths.  It's therefore important that obstetricians and gynaecologists are aware of the condition and the impact it can have.

The studies and guidance indicate a promising change in women's health and maternity care.  There's been an increase in awareness of such issues in recent years, which I am hopeful will lead to more open and frequent discussions between clinicians and their patients to ensure women with endometriosis are supported.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise in supporting families affected by maternity care issues at our dedicated medical negligence section.