It’s a staggering statistic: Endometriosis affects an estimated one in 10 women, girls and transgender individuals around the world. Those numbers add up to roughly eight to nine million sufferers in the U.S. and approximately 200 million worldwide.1 One of those women is Marta Pozzan, actress, mental health advocate, model, writer, and influencer with wisdom, talent and outright cool factor to spare. In honor of Endometriosis Awareness Week, we caught up with Pozzan to hear firsthand about her reproductive health journey.
But first, the basics: the term endometriosis comes from the word "endometrium," which is the tissue that lines the uterus. During a woman's regular menstrual cycle, this tissue builds up and is shed if she does not become pregnant. But women with endometriosis develop tissue that looks and acts like endometrial tissue outside of the uterus, usually on other reproductive organs inside the pelvis or in the abdominal cavity. Each month, this misplaced tissue responds to the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle by building up and breaking down just as the endometrium does, resulting in small bleeding inside of the pelvis. This leads to inflammation, swelling and scarring of the normal tissue surrounding the endometriosis implants.2
Endometriosis affects an estimated 1 in 10 women, girls and transgender individuals around the world.
Symptoms include pain, especially excessive menstrual cramps that may be felt in the abdomen or lower back; pain during intercourse; abnormal or heavy menstrual flow; infertility; painful urination or bowel movements during menstrual periods; and other gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea, constipation and nausea.2 As always, consult with your healthcare provider if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
This brings us to today's feature, our conversation with Marta Pozzan on how her experience with endometriosis, the effect it's had on her mental health and her relationship with her body, and how she's navigated her diagnosis. Keep reading to see what she had to say.
Perelel: We are honored to focus on Endometriosis Awareness Week. Why do you think it's important for endometriosis to be in the spotlight?
Marta Pozzan: I think it’s important for endometriosis to be in the spotlight because too often it doesn’t get diagnosed in time or is mostly dismissed by women that are so used to "period pain" or pelvic pain in general that they don’t realize it is actually a disease and if untreated it can cause very damaging long term effects, including infertility. So I think it’s very crucial to educate women around the world about it by having people that suffer from it sharing their experiences.
P: When were you diagnosed with endometriosis and what did the experience look like for you prior to the diagnosis?
MP: I was diagnosed when I was 23-years-old. I hadn’t had my period since I was 19 and at that time I was still living in Italy. I went to see various doctors and they’d all tell me: "Don’t worry, you’ll get your period back." "You’re going to mature and get your period." I quite honestly felt shamed for the longest time about it because people would ask me, "So, did you get your period yet?" As if that was something I could control. It caused me a lot of anxiety and insecurities and an overall feeling of not belonging to my body and the complete loss of my femininity.
P: What physical symptoms does endometriosis cause for you? Are these issues ongoing or have you found relief through surgery, medication or other avenues?
MP: When I moved to the United States I got proper medical care and my angel genius doctor, Randy Harris, MD, (he’s now retired but I’ll always love him and I do miss him a lot) found out that I had endometriosis and prescribed birth control for me. So I had my period again, I started feeling better but the pain wouldn’t ever really go away. I remember when I was younger, around 15-years-old, I almost fainted once because my period was giving me unbearable cramps all over my body. I then developed ovarian cysts around the age of 25, which then led to me getting surgery. And that was absolutely life-changing and eye-opening. I could finally live without pain and shame. I literally remember feeling like I was going through a rebirth.
P: Has endometriosis affected your mental health? How so?
MP: It made me doubt so many things including my own body and sexuality, and it brought me this sort of fear of being seen differently and perceived in the wrong way. It was ultimately all psychosomatic and with time and cognitive behavioral therapy it all got better.
P: What would you tell someone who has just received an endometriosis diagnosis?
MP: That they’re not alone and that it will be fine. It’s manageable nowadays, thankfully.
P: Endometriosis affects one in 10 women yet has received minimal attention from the medical community, historically. Why do you think that is?
MP: I believe it ties to the whole world of autoimmune diseases that go unseen and untreated for the longest time because they’re not seen as actual life-threatening conditions, but they do consume and destroy the body over time. So, I believe they’re considered less dangerous because their effects are not as immediate and their causes are sometimes unclear.
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1 Worldwide EndoMarch.
2 Endometriosis | Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Written by Jessica Lopez. Jessica Lopez is a freelance writer, digital content creator, and new mother. She has covered all lifestyle topics ranging from bridal to beauty for publications including Brides Magazine, Byrdie, THE/THIRTY, and more. Walking wide-eyed into motherhood has inspired her to connect with other parents through her writing and shared experience. You can follow more of her journey @Jessica.H.Lopez.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.