In an Instagram story posted yesterday, model Olivia Culpo revealed that she has endometriosis, a condition that affects an estimated one in 10 American women during their reproductive years. "I've never publicly said this before but I have endometriosis," she wrote on the story. "Aka the most excruciatingly painful cramps/periods. Anyone else reading this have endo? No fun."
When you have endometriosis, tissue that is similar to what makes up the uterine lining grows elsewhere in the body, usually on the outside of the uterus and nearby organs. And like Culpo says in her Instagram story, this can cause intense period pain, as well as issues including painful sex and constipation.
"There's a surgery you can get for it but I don't want to get," the former Miss Universe said. The surgery she's referring to is called laparoscopic surgery, a procedure that removes scar tissue, endometrial tissue, and cysts that build up due to the condition. Instead, Culpo is choosing to use "lots of heating pads, lots of water, and lots of Midol."
Other celebs have opened up about their endometriosis diagnoses in the past, too, including Halsey to Lena Dunham. And their experiences sound similar to Culpo's: painful, exhausting, and even frustrating.
In her story, Culpo advised her followers and those watching to be vigilent if they're experiencing symptoms of endometriosis. "I just think it's really important if you are having very painful periods and you are not being diagnosed with what you think could be endometriosis, definitely do your research because if you don't discover that you have this, it could get in the way of your fertility," she says. "You could have tissue growing in areas that you really shouldn't have that would interfere with maybe getting pregnant some day, your eggs could be getting damaged."
That's one of the reasons Culpo says she's decided to bring awareness to the condition now. "My doctor tells me about people who come to her in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s about not having been able to have kids," she shared. "The thing that's so sad about that is because they may have had endometriosis that may have affected their fertility in some way and if they had caught it earlier, they could have frozen their eggs. There would have been more options."
In an article she wrote for Refinery29 earlier this year, actress Bojana Novakovic, who also has endo, shared a similar sentiment. "For me, a huge part of my problem was shame. The symptoms of endometriosis were embarrassing to talk about. I didn’t want to tell anyone that my nether regions ached, that sex was painful. I thought I was weak... It's important to destigmatize pelvic pain, so that we can talk openly about solutions. After all, if I had heard someone talk about it when I was a teenager, I might not have lived in all that pain for nearly 20 years."
"It's a disease that is very poorly understood, even though it's been almost a hundred years since it was first described," Shaheen Khazali, MD, a consultant gynecologist and endometriosis surgeon, and honorary secretary of the British Society for Gynaecological Endoscopy (BSGE) previously told Refinery29. "We are still struggling both as a scientific community and as doctors to properly understand and address the issue."
If you're experiencing symptoms such as painful periods or other uncomfortable symptoms such as such as painful urination, sex, and bowel movements, you'll want to head to your doctor to make everything is alright. "You just never know," Culpo says. "You don't want to wait too late, so I want everyone to take that seriously."