By Annette Tyrrell
It is an epidemic out-stripping diabetes and asthma. Endometriosis is an often-painful condition affecting the quality of life, productivity and fertility of one in 10 women at reproductive age, according to Endometriosis Australia.
While there is currently no known cause of endometriosis, if you ask Doctor Geoffrey Reid what causes it, you’ll get a frank answer. Speaking to a gathering of sufferers at the Endo March Sydney Yellow Cocktail Evening recently, Doctor Reid said, “To a certain extent it’s the doctors causing endometriosis. We are facilitating the propagation of a genetic condition by assisting these women to reproduce.”
An experienced independent gynecologist from Bowral, Dr Reid said over time he has “seen a biological shift – endometriosis is becoming more aggressive and more prevalent” and he posed the question, “Is this propagation of the disease by doctors wrong?”
Naomi Reeves, a long-term sufferer and Endometriosis Australia supporter, agrees it is a “thought provoking issue” but “one most people try to ignore”.
“If I knew I had a chance of passing on a disease, I’d stop and think. But we have such an innate desire to reproduce. I fought long and hard to have a child,” she said.
She now has an adult son who advocates for awareness of the disease. Naomi said she is relieved she didn’t have a daughter, although she believes she inherited it from her father’s side of the family. While her mother never suffered endometriosis, Naomi said, “My endometriosis tortured my mother and my father. They were my absolute saviours, supporting me through countless operations long after I left home.”
But endometriosis does not only affect sufferers and their families. Doctor Reid quoted statistics from the World Endometriosis Research Foundation in 2011 that said endometriosis causes “a 38 per cent reduction in employment hours with two-thirds of economic cost arising from lost productivity and the remaining third due to treatment”.
According to Doctor Reid, doctors are exacerbating the endometriosis burden on women and society. By providing treatments such as laparoscopies and IVF to overcome the symptoms of the disease, doctors are enabling women with endometriosis to fall pregnant and pass on the increasingly aggressive condition to the next generation.
For this reason Doctor Reid stresses we need more “education and support for research into the mechanics of the disease”.
Endometriosis Australia is working to help increase awareness and fund endometriosis research. “It’s a work in progress,” Naomi said.