New Zealand introduces endometriosis guidelines for doctors

A health task force in New Zealand has developed the nation’s first-ever best-practice principles for dealing with endometriosis

This is an edited version of an article first published by The Guardian.

For the first time, best-practice guidelines will be introduced for doctors treating patients suffering from endometriosis in a bid to improve early detection and ease the suffering of a common but woefully undertreated disease.

According to the ministry of health [MoH] endometriosis affects one in 10 of New Zealand’s women and girls and delayed diagnosis is common, leading to delays in appropriate treatment and pain management.

The chronic disease occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus, causing inflammation, pain and, in some cases, infertility. It is a commonly misunderstood condition and diagnosis takes an average of eight to nine years.

The quality of life impacts of endometriosis are considered similar to diabetes.

Now a health taskforce has developed New Zealand’s first-ever best-practice principles and while not a formal clinical guideline, the minister for women and associate health minister Julie-Anne Genter hopes it will be the first step to improving care for sufferers.

“Women’s pain has been minimised for far too long because it is seen as ‘only’ women suffering,” she said.

“Endometriosis and pelvic pain are serious issues for many women and girls and our health system needs to do better.”

“It is important that health professionals around the country know about this new guidance and they know what to do to recognise the symptoms. That’s why all the relevant colleges have been involved and will help ensure the guidance gets to everyone.”

The most common symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain, which can be severe. Other symptoms include bowel problems, pain during intercourse, sub-fertility or infertility, and abnormal menstrual bleeding.

Genter said New Zealand was launching the guidelines to get the medical establishment to take endometriosis and pelvic pain more seriously.

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“We want to ensure women and girls don’t suffer in silence and they get the treatment they need as early as possible.”

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