“It was a really frustrating experience, which is one reason I’m so passionate about talking about it,” says the model of trying to figure out why she was in pain

By Julie Mazziotta
November 10, 2020 11:51 AM
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Olivia Culpo
| Credit: Thomas Whiteside

Olivia Culpo has a story familiar to many endometriosis sufferers — she was in significant pain, but her doctors could not figure out what was wrong.

The model, 28, was in “agony” for a long time before she was finally diagnosed with endometriosis, a painful, common condition that causes the uterine lining to grow outside of the uterus.

“It was a really frustrating experience, which is one reason I’m so passionate about talking about it,” Culpo tells SHAPE for their December issue.

Before her diagnosis “about a year and a half ago,” Culpo was struggling.

“I knew there was something wrong before that,” she said. “I had gone to a number of doctors in agony — crying, shaking. When you’re living with chronic pain, you don’t know if you want to throw up or just curl into a ball and cry.”

Olivia Culpo
| Credit: Thomas Whiteside

After a “six month journey of trying to figure it out,” Culpo found her doctor.

“Good thing, because my condition was advanced, and she needed to check my eggs immediately to make sure my fertility was intact,” the former Miss Universe said.

Now Culpo is in search of holistic treatments for her endometriosis.

“Right now, I’m trying to figure out new ways to heal holistically through what I’m eating and the rest that I’m giving myself,” she said. “I’m also exploring acupuncture, massages, Chinese herbal medicine, and maybe cutting out caffeine. I’m going to actively try to help people who live with this and not just talk about my experience.”

Olivia Culpo
| Credit: Thomas Whiteside

But even just talking about it has already had an impact. Culpo first shared her diagnosis on Instagram in August, and she was “shocked” by how many people reached out to say they had the same condition, she told PEOPLE in October.

"It was something that I was nervous to share because I really didn't know if people would be familiar with the condition, and it turns out a lot of women are," she said.

RELATED VIDEO: Olivia Culpo Says ‘Every Month Is Different’ As She Navigates Her Endometriosis ‘Journey’

The Sports Illustrated model said she now wants to "make sure women are doing their due diligence and getting their egg count checked, making sure that if they do have painful periods, that it's not something that's affecting their ovaries or their egg.”

“Down the line, it's so heartbreaking when you think about someone who maybe could have taken action earlier, and now they can't have children,” she continued. “That to me just feels awful."

Olivia Culpo
| Credit: Thomas Whiteside