For years, actress and dancer Julianne Hough suffered from severe menstrual cramps that she initially dismissed as normal.
"This feels like sharp, dagger pains and it's almost instant," Hough recalled thinking in an interview with Today. "It comes out of nowhere and all of a sudden I'll be like, 'Oh, crap,' and then it will last for a minute and then go away. And then another sharp pain, and then it will subside."
"And for me, that usually happens three or four times a day, for a span of five minutes," she added. "And then I'm fine."
In 2008, Hough found out that her symptoms weren't "normal," after all — she was diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition that affects women's reproductive organs.
According to the World Endometriosis Research Foundation, endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women, including celebrities such as Lena Dunham and Padma Lakshmi, who have both spoken publicly about it. It occurs when the lining of your uterus (or endometrial lining) grows outside the uterus on other parts of your body instead of growing inside of your uterus. Symptoms can include extreme menstrual cramp pain, irregular periods, and abnormally heavy periods.
Hough told Today that she had been performing on Dancing With The Stars when she experienced pain so excruciating that her mother, who happened to be in the audience, had to rush her to the hospital emergency room.
"The rough part was that it took a long time to get a proper diagnosis," she told Today. "We went to three or four different doctors in the span of three days."
Unfortunately, Hough's experience is common — many people have difficulty being diagnosed with endometriosis, especially with the stigma that comes with menstrual problems. Being diagnosed, however, has made the condition more manageable for Hough to live with.
"It sort of gives you peace of mind, like a name to the pain," she told Today. "Just knowing that I'm not the only one who feels this and that I'm not overreacting. Giving myself more compassion for how I'm feeling. I'm like, 'It's OK, you don't have to be the friggin' champion of the world right now. Just sit down Julianne, you know?"
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