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Endometriosis health issues double in last decade

A 2023 study has found that endometriosis-related hospitalisations in Australian women (people assigned female at birth) have increased to 24 per cent in the decade, and doubled in the 20-24 age bracket from 2012-2022.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reported there were 250 hospitalisations per 100,000 females in 2011-12, compared to 310 per 100,000 in 2021-22, with a decreasing median age of hospitalisations.

Expert in chronic conditions at AIHW Katherine Faulks said these numbers don't necessarily represent a growth in the disease itself, but instead, a rise in understanding of endometriosis.

"This increase may reflect increased awareness of endometriosis among the general public and health professionals, leading to increased diagnosis and/or reporting of diagnosis among women born more recently," Ms Faulks said.

By age 31, 9.2 per cent of women born between 1989 and 95 were diagnosed with endometriosis, compared to 6.9 per cent of women born between 1973 and 78 at the same age.

Endometriosis is the third-leading reproductive health disease in Australian women and is known for its misdiagnoses and the long time it takes to diagnose.

In fact, women wait an average of six to eight years after first reporting symptoms to receive a proper diagnosis of endometriosis.

Maddy Forster, a 25-year-old from Melbourne, said although endometriosis awareness is increasing, it still took doctors six years and four surgeries to diagnose her with stage four endometriosis and adenomyosis.

Ms Forster said she felt the three doctors she saw before her current endometriosis specialist wasn't educated about the disease at all and disregarded any signs of her being seriously ill, putting her on a birth control pill as a 'set it and forget it' measure.

"When [my previous doctors operated on me], and realised they weren't able to do what they needed to, they should've closed me up and told me and referred me to someone else," she said.

Ms Forster explained even though her diagnosis experience was long and damaged her health, young women now contact her on social media to share their diagnosis stories, which are gradually becoming more streamlined.

"I think there is more reach out there for women to trust their bodies and say 'hang on, this is not right'," she said.

"There is still a really long way to go in terms of the first step of women going to their GP, and saying 'this is what I'm feeling', [without immediately] being put on the pill."

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