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How You Can Support Your Partner Through Endometriosis

If your partner has endometriosis, it can be hard to watch them struggle with the symptoms and their effects. You want to help, but you may not be sure what you can do or how you can make a difference. Here are some steps you may want to take.

Understanding endometriosis

To start, it helps to understand what endometriosis is. “Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue, the tissue of the lining of the uterus, is found outside the uterus. It’s usually found in the pelvis but can also be found on the bowel, bladder and other organs,” said Ilana Addis, MD, an OB/GYN with Banner – University Medicine.

During the menstrual cycle, this tissue thickens, breaks down and bleeds, just like the lining of the uterus. But since it cannot exit the body, it gets trapped and causes inflammation, pain and scar tissue. 

Women with endometriosis may have:

  • Chronic pelvic pain ranging from mild to severe. The pain may be worse during menstruation or it may be present all the time.
  • Painful periods, which may include lower back pain and abdominal discomfort.
  • Pain during or after sexual intercourse.
  • Infertility, since endometriosis can lead to scarring and adhesions, making it harder for an egg to travel through the fallopian tubes or to implant in the uterus.
  • Other symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding, fatigue, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and a need to urinate urgently or frequently.
  • Other chronic conditions like migraines, IBS or fibromyalgia.

“Many people with endometriosis have pain either monthly with their periods or all the time if the endometriosis is more advanced. A partner who understands the disease and symptoms can be supportive when somebody with endometriosis is experiencing severe pain,” Dr. Addis said.

Learning about endometriosis and being supportive

You can better support your partner if you understand the condition and its impact. Reach out to trusted health care providers for reliable sources of information such as books, websites, articles and journals.

Treatment for endometriosis can vary depending on how severe the symptoms are, your partner’s health status and their reproductive plans. You can learn about treatment options such as medication, surgery and complementary therapies. When you understand the benefits, risks and side effects, you can help your partner find the best course of action.

You can also learn about the challenges people with endometriosis face beyond physical symptoms. That can include emotional distress, fertility issues and the condition’s impact on daily life. By knowing what to expect, you can prepare and support your partner.

How endometriosis can affect life and relationships

The pain and symptoms of endometriosis may make it hard for your partner to work, go to school or take part in social activities. Pain during intercourse can lead to a decrease in sexual activity and strained communication. The emotional toll of coping with this condition can lead to stress, anxiety and depression.

Encourage your partner to share their experiences and actively listen to their perspective. That will give you insight into their struggles, fears and coping mechanisms. Validate their emotions and be attentive to their needs.

“People with endometriosis have often had a long and frustrating course to diagnosis, so validation of the symptoms and disease by a partner is very important,” Dr. Addis said.

Try to communicate openly with your partner. Sharing feelings, promoting understanding and building support can strengthen your bond.

Try not to interrupt or rush in and offer solutions. Acknowledge their feelings and reflect back what you’ve heard to help deepen your connection.

Face challenges together. “Endometriosis can lead to painful intercourse, which demands an understanding partner to have a fulfilling sex life,” Dr. Addis said. “It can also lead to infertility and the need for assisted reproductive techniques to get pregnant.”

What you can do to help 

You can support your partner emotionally. Recognize that your partner will probably have a range of ups and downs. Validate their feelings and support them without judgment. Watch for signs of distress or mood changes and create a supportive environment where your partner feels comfortable expressing their emotions openly.

Offer reassurance and comfort. Let your partner know you’re there for them and committed to facing challenges together. 

Be patient and understanding and recognize that managing the condition may take time and adjustment. That way, you can strengthen your bond and build trust in your relationship.

You can also offer practical support. When symptoms are flaring, simple daily tasks can be challenging. It can be helpful for you to take on more of the household chores, meal preparation or childcare. Offer to help without waiting for your partner to ask.

Go along with your partner on their medical appointments if possible. That shows you’re committed to their well-being and gives them emotional support. 

“It is often helpful for people with endometriosis to have their partner at their doctor visits taking notes to make sure no detail is missed,” Dr. Addis said. Ask questions to ensure you and your partner understand everything you’re hearing.

Prioritize self-care for both of you

Make sure that your partner focuses on well-being. Remind them to take breaks and make time for activities they enjoy. Help them rest and relax and make it easier for them to exercise and eat well.

And don’t overlook your own self-care needs. Endometriosis can be difficult for both people in the relationship, so it’s important to take care of yourself. That will help you stay resilient, cope with the challenges you face and support your partner.

Communicate with your partner to understand what you both need. You may want to be with your partner every step of the way, but you also need to take care of yourself. Find ways to support one another so you each get the self-care you need.

Help your partner find support – and connect with support yourself

You and your partner aren’t alone in life. Your partner may want to share experiences with family and friends who understand and empathize. They may also want to join in-person or online support groups or communities where they can connect with others for advice, emotional support and practical tips.

You’ll want to turn to your own support network as well. You can reach out to friends, family members and support groups for partners.

If you and your partner are struggling to cope with the effects of endometriosis, turn to a behavioral health therapist or counselor for support. A professional can help you understand your emotions, develop coping mechanisms and find healthy ways to support each other. Getting help is a sign of strength.

The bottom line

Endometriosis is a painful condition that can be worse during menstrual periods and can cause pain during intercourse and infertility. You can provide emotional and practical support if your partner is dealing with the condition.

To learn more about supporting a partner with endometriosis, reach out to an expert at Banner Health

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