How to (Actually) Support Your Partner with Endometriosis
From cheating scandals to endometriosis — “Married At First Sight” certainly isn’t ever short on topics to cover.
At last night’s commitment ceremony, there was one bride not in attendance.
“Bronte won’t be joining us tonight,” relationship expert John Aiken told the group.
“She’s not feeling well.”
When husband Harrison got called onto the couch, we learnt more about what was going on.
Looking decidedly melancholy as he’s called up, almost as though he’s holding back tears, we started to feel concerned about what had happened with his wife, Bronte.
“Flying solo tonight?” starts off expert Mel Brisbane-Schilling,.
“Yeah, unfortunately Bronte couldn’t be here,” replied Harrison.
“She goes through a lot more at that time of the month than the average woman,” he tries to explain.
“I’m not a voice for endo-dometriosis or a women’s biological functions, but she’s in a lot of pain and gets very emotional.”
Looking down, he shakes his head and sniffles.
“And crying,” he says, continuing to describe Bronte’s experience with endometriosis. His voice wavering, in an almost Oscar-worthy performance of empathy we’ve never seen from him before.
The camera panned to the reaction of his fellow couples in the experiment — most of who are giggling, rolling their eyes or looking confused. This, then matched with the playful, menacing music playing in the background and a sufficient amount of awkward silence — it’s clear that no one is believing those tears.
The camera also pans to the experts, each with a dumbfounded look on their face.
Sexologist Alessandra Rampola’s eyes are wide with disbelief, Schilling scratches her raised eyebrows, while Aitken does his signature smirk and head shake — which usually means he’s about to speak some hard truths.
And, as Harrison continues to sniffle and express how hard it is to see Bronte “like that”, Aitken came through to say what everyone was already thinking.
“I’m not getting a sense that you’re being real with us,” he tells Harrison, bluntly.
This didn’t seem to impact Harrison, who continued to look solemn, wipe away his tears and deliver the news that him and Bronte would be staying for another week in the experiment.
No one seemed to care.
And, while it’s almost impossible to know how Harrison was really feeling about Bronte’s “endo-dometriosis”, it does raise the question of how to best support a partner who suffers from the debilitating disease.
What Is Endometriosis?
According to leading integrative practitioner and fertility expert, Leah Hechtman, endometriosis is a disease whereby the cells that resemble the endometrium (lining of the uterus) are found outside the uterus.
“Endometriosis cells are commonly found around the reproductive organs or the digestive system,” Hechtman tells POPSUGAR Australia.
“These cells cause an inflammatory and immunological response in the body and contribute to a number of symptoms for women including menstrual issues such as period pain, pain generally, heavy periods; increased scar tissue within the pelvis and other parts of the body, painful intercourse, increased thrush and vaginal infections, urinary symptoms, digestive symptoms akin to IBS (bloating, cramping, nausea, fatigue) and many others.”
How Does Endometriosis Affect People?
Impacting 1 in 9 people who menstruate, endometriosis is more common than you think, says Hechtman.
“Sadly diagnosis takes on average >6.5 years to achieve which means people can be debilitated for many years without appropriate investigation and or treatment,” she continues.
“It affects all ages and people who have just started menstruating can present with endometriosis (teen years are often trickiest for the diagnosis). Importantly women (and those assigned female at birth) need to remember that period pain is not normal and any pain or discomfort should be assessed by a health care practitioner.”
While endometriosis can often be normalised as simply a “painful period” or as a “normal” thing that happens once a month, being in a debilitating amount of pain that goes onto impact other parts of your life can be considered chronic pain and should be taken seriously.
As someone who experiences endometriosis myself, I personally have some months that are more manageable, and some that make even the simplest of tasks feel almost impossible.
Not only do I suffer from bad cramping, headache and nausea, my body also feels extremely fatigued.
“The hardest part of endometriosis is that pain levels are not related to the extent of the disease — the level of pain and discomfort a person experiences may or may not correlate with the findings,” says Hechtman.
“It affects all areas of life, including emotionally, mentally, physically, sexually and in all areas of the body.”
How to Support Someone Dealing with Endometriosis
The following four tips are recommended by Hechtman. They can all help support people suffering with endometriosis.
Help Them Find the Right Experts
For someone with endomentriosis, the number one priority is to form an optimal health care team, she recommends.
“Shortening the time for diagnosis and seeing people who are experts in this condition will ensure you have the best care and treatment plan.”
Given that there is no cure available to long term management strategies, in order to live life to the fullest, achieve personal goals and feel connected to their mind and body, they’ll need a team of people around to support them.
Understanding that you’re not an expert and that the hunt for the right experts can be isolating and exhausting, can just help to make someone suffering with endometriosis feel more seen.
Cook Them the Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Optimal nutrition cannot be underestimated, says Hechtman
“Choosing nourishing nutrient-rich foods that are wholefood in nature — unprocessed, high variety of fruits and vegetables, low in sugar, alcohol, caffeine and anything artificial.”
Cook your endo bae something that is anti-inflammatory too, to help settle their pain. Something like salmon and kale is a really easy and thoughtful meal to cook someone with endometriosis, as it gives them all the good things like Omega 3, while also help with reducing inflammation.
Even supplements can help, says Hechtman. Go pick them up some ubiquinol (activated coenzyme Q10), b vitamins (especially folate and B12) and magnesium from the chemist! Along with a hot water bottle and some peppermint tea.
Do Pelvic Floor Exercises With Them
According to Hechtman, pelvic floor health is another key ingredient to alleviating endo symptoms.
“Muscular and neurological function to optimise and stabilise the pelvic floor provides structural support to reduce associated symptoms and improve organ functionality,” she says.
You can find some basic pelvic floor exercises to do online, or you can book them in to a pelvic floor physiotherapist, to assess and support.
Be Kind and Caring
As someone who has suffered through endometriosis with a male partner, I know how isolating in can feel to be experiencing a pain that they don’t understand.
Especially with something like endo, the pain isn’t outward, so it’s quite easy to disregard. But trust me, endo is a b*tch.
The best thing you can do is just to be there for your partner, friend or lover in a way that is kind and caring. Ask them if they need anything, make yourself free to spend time with them and help them in any way you can.
And, if you’re still feeling unsure, you can’t ever go wrong with a hot water bottle and some Lindt dark chocolate.