Endometriosis is a common condition affecting around one in ten Australian women, or anyone with a uterus, and many living with the condition go through multiple doctors and misdiagnoses before actually being diagnosed with endometriosis.
For those with endometriosis, tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other areas of the body.
Each time you have a cycle, these cells try to shed, but without a way to leave the body, they can cause painful lesions and inflammation.
Common symptoms of endometriosis include incredibly painful periods, nausea, diarrhoea and pain during sex. It can also affect fertility.
There is no known cure for endometriosis, with treatment involving lifestyle changes and sometimes surgery.
The impact of endometriosis on an individual’s career
In an effort to understand the impact endometriosis has on an individual’s career, Southern Cross University’s National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine and Western Sydney University’s NICM Health Research Institute (supported by Endometriosis Australia) conducted a national survey of 389 women diagnosed with endometriosis.
And the results were somewhat shocking.
One in six people have lost their jobs due to endometriosis, with one in three reporting being passed over for a promotion due to having to manage their symptoms.
Due to the fear of raising their diagnosis within the workplace, 70 percent of people have taken unpaid time off work to manage their symptoms, and 50 percent said the lack of flexibility in workplaces was a significant issue.
“The message is loud and clear, those with endometriosis are disadvantaged in a workplace that does not foster and support flexible working arrangements….workplaces need to create safe, confidential and supportive environments for employees to share their experiences and find a balance that works for both parties," Endometriosis Australia’s CEO Alexis Wolfe tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
COVID workplace changes have set a precedent for change
During the pandemic, most workplaces have had to implement flexible working arrangements for their employees.
Interestingly, the benefits many have experienced from this increased flexibility have also improved the lives of those living with endometriosis.
According to the study, 60 percent of those with endometriosis reported that work from home arrangements had helped them to be more productive, and 90 percent thought that flexibility around time management and working from home were the most important factors that could improve management of endometriosis in workplaces.
Other suggested changes include:
Introduction of 20-minute rest periods
Access to healthcare benefits
Access to healthcare services such as counselling, mindfulness or assisted exercise
Access to physical aids such as ergonomic chairs, heat packs and props.
“These interventions are relatively simple to implement and can help make the workplace more endometriosis friendly," Alexis tells us.
"As the COVID experience has shown, creating a more flexible workplace can be a win-win for both the employer and the employee, making it easier for women to manage their endometriosis, while also making them more productive and respected employees.”
Endometriosis Australia is currently holding its annual Christmas appeal highlighting the importance of continued support and resources for those living with endometriosis.
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