Do you know how endometriosis affects Black women?
If you’re not fully aware of endometriosis, here’s the gist: Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory condition that predominantly affects the reproductive system but can also attack the thoracic and digestive systems.
Then there are the symptoms like excruciating periods, brain fog, painful sex, mood swings out the wazoo, random body pains … and the most disheartening of them all for many: infertility.
Eleven percent of American people between the ages of 15 to 44 have endo, and 1 out of 10 people assigned female at birth worldwide—and though it’s rare, cis men, too. It can take up to six to ten years to be diagnosed.
Even worse? For African American women and other women of color, it sometimes takes 11 to 15 years!
Why, you may be wondering? Because African American women are 50 percent less likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis than any other race.
Surprised? Not us. We’re also 50 percent less likely to receive pain medication than white women. Here’s another 50 percent stat for you: that’s the percentage of white medical trainees who believe African Americans have less sensitive nerve endings or a similar myth about Black bodies.
Don’t believe us? Here’s proof, courtesy of the journal of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the Harvard Global Health Institute—just to get you started.
We are Endo Black, and as Black women with endo, we already deal with the anxiety that stems from oncoming periods and flare-ups regularly. But even taking a trip to the doctor’s office can lead to emotional anguish. Medical professionals have laughed at our pain.
Did you know that the “father of modern-day gynecology,” J. Marion Sims, operated on several enslaved African women in the mid-1800s without anesthesia? He wrote about his studies, and though we’ll never know every woman he mutilated, we know of three women.
And so we do this for them, “the mothers of gynecology”: Lucy, Anarcha, and Betsey.
This post was adapted from a Twitter thread originally posted March 23.