Emma Roberts dealt with the symptoms of endometriosis since she was a teen — but she didn’t get diagnosed until her late-20s. At that point, the condition had already affected her fertility, leading her to freeze her eggs.
The actor told Danler that as an adult, having kids wasn’t at the top of her mind. But that changed a few years ago, when Roberts was diagnosed with endometriosis. The condition occurs when tissue similar to the lining of your uterus grows elsewhere in the body, causing symptoms like pelvic pain, pain during sex, and prolonged periods.
“I always had debilitating cramps and periods, so bad that I would miss school and, later, have to cancel meetings,” Roberts said in the interview. “I mentioned this to my doctor, who didn’t look into it and sent me on my way because maybe I was being dramatic? In my late 20s, I just had a feeling I needed to switch to a female doctor. It was the best decision. She ran tests, sent me to a specialist. Finally, there was validation that I wasn’t being dramatic.”
Roberts’ experience of being brushed off by her first doctor is, unfortunately, all too common. Studies have shown that doctors don’t take women’s pain as seriously as men’s, a phenomenon called the gender pain gap. In Roberts’ case, this delay in diagnosis had a serious consequence: Her endo had progressed to the point where it was affecting her ability to get pregnant, “I was kind of stunned,” she shared. “It felt so permanent, and oddly, I felt like I had done something wrong.”
How much endometrial tissue a person has, where it grows, and what surgeries are used to treat it can all play a role in how the condition affects fertility. Roberts said that talking about endo and fertility with other women helped her process the news. “All of a sudden, there was a new world of conversation about endometriosis, infertility, miscarriages, fear of having kids,” she told Danler. “I was so grateful to find out I was not alone in this. I hadn’t done anything ‘wrong’ after all.”
Roberts also told Cosmo that her doctor suggested she freeze her eggs. She was initially scared to do so, but she did go through with the procedure eventually, calling it “a difficult process.”
While egg freezing is expensive and not an option for everyone, many doctors suggest that people with endometriosis who think they may want to get pregnant later on look into it, especially if their endo is more severe. "The disease itself, as well as surgeries, threatens to diminish ovarian reserve, and therefore freezing eggs early on is a smart, proactive strategy,” Avner Hershlag, MD, chief of Northwell Health’s Center for Human Reproduction, previously told Refinery29. He added that once someone with endo does get pregnant, it’s usually a fairly uncomplicated pregnancy.
Roberts ultimately got pregnant. “It sounds cheesy, but the moment that I stopped thinking about it, we got pregnant,” she said. But even then, she was apprehensive that something might go wrong, so she didn’t go public with the news. “I kept it to myself, my family, and my partner, not wanting to make grand plans if it wasn’t going to work out,” she said. “This pregnancy made me realize that the only plan you can have is that there is no plan.”