8 Celebrities Who Are Spreading the Word About the Pain of Endometriosis
The writer and actress has long shared her struggles with endometriosis over the years, a fight that caused her to lose "all trust in or connection to" her body.
Though the pain started with her first period, Dunham, 31, didn't get diagnosed until she was filming the first season of Girls at age 25. She says those years in between were difficult to handle.
“If my pain had no tangible source, that just meant my mind was more powerful than I was and it didn’t want me to be happy, ever,” Dunham said in 2015. “I saw myself divided like a black-and-white cookie into neat halves: one bright and ambitious, the other destined to wind up strapped to a gurney and moaning for pain meds.”
In an essay for the March 2018 issue of Vogue, she revealed that she had her uterus removed in a total hysterectomy, and can no longer carry a child — something she dreamed of since she was little.
"I may have felt choiceless before, but I know I have choices now," Dunham wrote. "Soon I’ll start exploring whether my ovaries, which remain someplace inside me in that vast cavern of organs and scar tissue, have eggs. (Your brain, unaware that the rest of the apparatus has gone, in theory keeps firing up your eggs every month, to be released and reabsorbed into the cavern.) Adoption is a thrilling truth I’ll pursue with all my might."
Hough first had endometriosis symptoms at age 15, but the disorder was so under-the-radar at the time that she didn't know something was wrong.
"I thought that this was just the kind of pain you have when you’re on your period,” Hough, 29, told PEOPLE. “For years, I was just thinking that was normal and never really talked about it.”
She finally faced the disorder head-on — and learned what it was — when she had to be rushed to the hospital from the Dancing with the Stars set in 2008.
“I found out that I had endometriosis and that I needed to get surgery that week,” she says.
Now Hough, who works with AbbVie on their SpeakENDO campaign, wants women to speak openly about endometriosis.
"I don’t care about being private about this anymore because I really want the women that are going through debilitating pain to benefit from my story or this campaign.”
The Top Chef host also went undiagnosed for years, and Lakshmi says her chronic pain played a huge part in the end of her marriage to Salman Rushdie. With Lakshmi often in too much pain to leave her bed or have sex, the couple were constantly fighting, and she says Rushdie once called her a "bad investment."
“Endometriosis was definitely a major reason that my marriage failed and I don’t think either of us understood it at the time," Lakshmi, 47, told PEOPLE. "I think that’s also because I hid it to a certain degree, not intentionally but you know, it’s weird to talk about your period all the time. It’s like the least sexy thing in the world to do.”
“I think that Salman took it personally and I think that he felt rejected,” she said, “and I can understand that.”
Ridley got honest with her followers about how much her endometrosis — and the skin problems that come with it — affects her self-esteem.
“At 15 I was diagnosed with endometriosis. One laparoscopy, many consultations and 8 years down the line, pain was back (more mild this time!) and my skin was THE WORST,” the actress, 25, posted on Instagram. “I’ve tried everything: products, antibiotics, more products, more antibiotics) and all that did was left my body in a bit of a mess. Finally found out I have polycystic ovaries and that’s why it’s bad. I can safely say feeling so self conscious has left my confidence in tatters.”
She urged everyone to go to the doctor if something feels off.
“To any of you who are suffering with anything, go to a doctor; pay for a specialist; get your hormones tested, get allergy testing; keep on top of how your body is feeling and don’t worry about sounding like a hypochondriac,” she said.
“From your head to the tips of your toes we only have one body, let us all make sure ours our working in tip top condition, and take help if it’s needed."
The singer may be 46, but she only discovered in May that the pain she had been dealing with was endometriosis. Thankfully, after an "almost 8 hour" surgery to remove cysts, fibroids and a hernia, she's feeling much better.
“I’ve known something was wrong but I also knew victory & better health would be near again!!” Monica wrote on Instagram two weeks post-op.
Her hope is that speaking out will push more women to address any health issues.
“My reason for sharing is because we, as women, are built to be warriors and we will ignore something that seems so simple that can be so complex,” she told PEOPLE. “Your uterine health is very important. I spoke up about it so people out there who are going through the same thing know that they’re not alone.”
Mowry-Hardrict and her husband, Cory Hardrict, want to add to their family and give their 6-year-old son Cree a sibling, but her endometriosis makes conceiving difficult.
“I do suffer from endometriosis,” Mowry-Hardrict, 37, told PEOPLE. “So there’s a little bit of a challenge there, but I will say this: I am working on my diet.”
The Tia Mowry At Home star and cookbook author focuses on eating foods that reduce inflammation, because "endometriosis basically grows from inflammation." She fills her diet with "fruits, vegetables, seeds and whole grains," and stays away from processed and packaged foods. Mowry-Hardrict also loves fermented foods.
“They are loaded with good bacteria that just keep the gut flora nice and balanced and able to fight off inflammation and free radicals in the body,” she said.
The singer doubted herself for years because her debilitating pain went undiagnosed by unconvinced doctors.
"I was recently diagnosed after years of suffering and finding myself doubled over backstage in the middle of my sets, or fighting back tears on an airplane, or even being in so much pain I would vomit or faint," Halsey, 22, wrote on Twitter in January 2016. "With doctors essentially telling me I was being a big baby about my period, or misdiagnosing PCOS, etc etc. Finding out that I had [endometriosis] was the most bittersweet moment because it meant I wasn’t crazy! I wasn’t a “baby”! I had every right to be feeling like the world was caving in. But it was terrifying to find out."
One year later, she underwent "multiple terrifying surgeries" to ease her pain.
“In my recovery I am thinking of all of you and how you give me the strength and stamina to power through and prosper,” she writes. “If you suffer from chronic pain or a debilitating disease please know that I have found time to live a crazy, wild, rewarding life AND balance my treatment and I hope so much in my heart that you can too."
The actress decided to share the story of her long struggle with infertility due to endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome to help others.
“I was hiding what I was going through for so long, and I hear about so many women going through what I went through," King, 38, told PEOPLE. "If I’m open about it, hopefully it won’t be so taboo to talk about it.”
And her endometriosis affected her career, too.
“[When] I was diagnosed with endometriosis, I gained 40 pounds because my hormones were so crazy,” King told The New York Post. “And it was like, ‘Oh, [producers] want to offer you this role, but they want to know why you got fat.’ I realized being shamed for gaining weight or being too thin felt the same.”
On the fertility front, though, she finally got some good news after five miscarriages, five rounds of in vitro fertilization and 26 rounds of intrauterine insemination: King ended up naturally conceiving her son James, 4.
“When I got pregnant it was the best thing in the whole world. I had never felt so grateful, happy and elated,” King told PEOPLE.