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Endometriosis in the workplace: Navigating challenges

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

Chronic pain, fatigue, and frequent medical appointments and treatments from endometriosis can affect work productivity and lead to missed workdays. Some research shows that 1 in 6 women with endometriosis get fired.

If you struggle with endometriosis that affects your ability to do your job, this post is will help you understand how you can manage these challenges, such as seeking accommodations, prioritizing self-care, and communicating effectively with your employers.

And, share this post with your colleagues in order to help them better understand and empathize with the often debilitating pain that can prevent you from completing even the simplest tasks.

By shedding light on the struggles faced by those with endometriosis in the workplace and offering actionable strategies for coping, we hope to support those with endometriosis in achieving career success and improving their quality of life.

What this blog covers:

  • What is endometriosis

  • The impact of endometriosis on career and work-life

  • The importance of addressing endometriosis in the workplace

  • The challenges of working with endometriosis

  • Tips for self-care at work

NOTE: At ELANZA, we believe that when it comes to endometriosis, there is not a best or only choice about which treatment options to pursue, there is just the solution that works for you. There are important considerations around every treatment plan and our single mission is to provide evidence and options so that anyone with endo has the ability to advocate for themselves and to make informed decisions about their care. We have no vested interest in any single treatment plan (i.e. surgery, medication, etc.). Our mission is to improve access to specialist care, whatever that entails.

What is endometriosis

Endometriosis is a chronic and often painful medical condition that affects the tissue lining the inside of the uterus (the endometrium).

With endometriosis, this tissue grows outside of the uterus and can attach to other organs in the pelvic area, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and bowel.

This displaced endometrial tissue continues to respond to the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle, causing inflammation, scarring, and the formation of painful lesions.

Symptoms of endometriosis can include painful periods, pelvic pain, pain during intercourse, and infertility.

While there is no known cure for endometriosis, there are a variety of treatment options available to manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

The impact of endometriosis on career and work-life

While endometriosis can have a significant impact on every area of your life, career and work life are some of the most dramatically affected.

Presenteeism - The chronic pain and other symptoms associated with the condition can make it difficult to concentrate, maintain productivity, and attend work consistently. Presenteeism in the workplace refers to a phenomenon where employees come to work despite being unwell or experiencing other personal issues that may hinder their ability to perform at their best. Essentially, it's the opposite of absenteeism, where employees do not show up for work.

There are days I show up at work and really all I do is go through the motions, I sit at my desk but all I can think about is the excruciating pain I am in. - Sally, NY

Absenteeism - Endometriosis may also require frequent medical appointments, surgeries, and other treatments, which can disrupt work schedules and cause missed days. Plus, the often debilitating pain can prevent people from showing up to work at all.

For a full week out of every month, I get such severe pelvic pain I physically can’t get out of bed. I feel like I’m going to vomit if I stand up and I sometimes get migraine headaches that happen simultaneously. My boss thinks I’m faking it and that I’m just making a big deal about my period. I don’t know what to do. - Leslie, TX

Mental health - The emotional toll of endometriosis can also affect your work-life, too. Not only is there a high incidence of depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges for people with endometriosis but the challenges experienced at work can exacerbate these feelings.

For example, the stigma and lack of understanding surrounding endometriosis can create a hostile work environment, making it difficult to disclose the condition or request accommodations.

Whenever I get really stressed at work, I tend to get an endo flare up. And, I’m in a constant state of stress just thinking about having a flare up. It’s a vicious cycle that nobody at work understands and is really impacting my ability to have a full time job. What am I supposed to do? - Dominique, GA

Overall, endometriosis can lead to a reduced quality of life, missed opportunities, and financial strain due to medical expenses and lost wages.

  • 23.2% of women in a study indicated that they had not pursued further education because of endometriosis

  • 40% believed that their career growth was directly and negatively affected by the consequences of endometriosis, including experiences of absenteeism, poor performance, failure to be promoted, not receiving bonuses, missed professional seminars, and lost clients

  • 20.4% reported having lost or quit a job at some point during their life due to endometriosis-related problems

  • 17.4% of women indicated that they had altered their career choice

  • 24.6% had reduced the number of hours they worked because of endometriosis.

It is essential for employers and coworkers to understand and support those with endometriosis in the workplace to ensure equal opportunities and a positive work environment.

The challenges of working with endometriosis

Chronic pain and fatigue

Chronic pain and fatigue are common challenges that those with endometriosis face in the workplace.

The pain associated with endometriosis can be intense and may interfere with the ability to focus and perform tasks effectively.

Fatigue can also be a significant challenge, as it can make it difficult to maintain productivity and stay alert at work.

Some strategies that those with endometriosis can use to manage chronic pain and fatigue in the workplace include:

  • Taking breaks: Taking regular breaks to rest and stretch can help manage pain and reduce fatigue. It's important to communicate with your employer and coworkers about the need for breaks and ensure that they understand the impact that chronic pain and fatigue can have on work performance.

  • Using pain management techniques: Those with endometriosis may find relief from pain through various techniques, including heat therapy, acupuncture, or pain medication. These techniques can be incorporated into the workday to manage pain and improve comfort.

  • Prioritizing self-care: Self-care is essential for managing chronic pain and fatigue associated with endometriosis. Strategies such as getting adequate sleep, eating a healthy diet, and practicing stress-reduction techniques like meditation or yoga can help improve energy levels and reduce pain.

  • Seeking accommodations: Those with endometriosis may be entitled to reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These accommodations may include modifications to the work environment or schedule, such as flexible work hours or the option to work from home.

By proactively managing chronic pain and fatigue in the workplace, those with endometriosis can maintain productivity, reduce missed workdays, and improve overall well-being.

Frequent medical appointments and treatments

Frequent medical appointments and treatments are common challenges for those living with endometriosis.

The condition may require ongoing medical management, which can include appointments with healthcare providers, surgeries, and other treatments that can interfere with work schedules.

Here are some strategies that individuals with endometriosis can use to manage medical appointments and treatments in the workplace:

  • Communicate with your employer: Open and honest communication with your employer is essential for managing medical appointments and treatments. Be upfront about the need for appointments and treatments and discuss how they may affect your work schedule. Work with your employer to find solutions that accommodate your needs while still meeting the requirements of your job.

  • Plan ahead: Whenever possible, try to schedule appointments and treatments outside of work hours. If that's not possible, try to schedule them during less busy times at work or during a lunch break. Give your employer and coworkers as much notice as possible to allow for proper planning.

  • Use sick leave and time off: If you need to take time off for medical appointments or treatments, use sick leave or other available time off. This will ensure that you can attend appointments without affecting your income or job security.

  • Consider flexible work arrangements: Some employers may offer flexible work arrangements, such as working from home or adjusting work hours, to accommodate medical appointments and treatments. Discuss these options with your employer to see if they are feasible.

By managing medical appointments and treatments proactively, individuals with endometriosis can reduce the impact on their work schedules and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Reduced productivity and missed workdays

Reduced productivity and missed workdays are common challenges for individuals living with endometriosis.

The pain and other symptoms associated with the condition can affect the ability to concentrate and perform work-related tasks, and may also require time off from work for medical appointments and treatments.

The importance of addressing endometriosis in the workplace

Addressing endometriosis in the workplace is essential for several reasons:

  • Promotes equal opportunities: By acknowledging and accommodating the needs of employees with endometriosis, workplaces can ensure that individuals with the condition have equal opportunities for success and career advancement.

  • Increases productivity: Providing support and accommodations for individuals with endometriosis can increase their productivity and reduce the number of missed workdays due to pain or other symptoms.

  • Improves mental health: Endometriosis can have a significant impact on mental health, and addressing the condition in the workplace can help reduce stigma and promote a supportive work environment.

  • Reduces healthcare costs: Endometriosis can be a costly condition to manage, both in terms of medical expenses and lost wages. Providing support and accommodations for individuals with endometriosis can help reduce these costs and improve overall health outcomes.

  • Increases awareness: By addressing endometriosis in the workplace, employers and coworkers can increase awareness of the condition and help reduce the stigma surrounding it. This can help improve understanding and support for individuals with endometriosis both in and out of the workplace.

Tips for self-care at work

Self-care is essential for managing the challenges of living with endometriosis in the workplace. Here are some tips for self-care at work:

  • Take regular breaks: Taking regular breaks to stretch, move around, or simply rest can help reduce pain and fatigue and improve concentration. Consider setting a timer to remind yourself to take breaks throughout the day.

  • Prioritize healthy eating: Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help manage symptoms of endometriosis and improve energy levels. Pack healthy snacks and meals to bring to work, and avoid sugary or processed foods that can cause energy crashes.

  • Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help reduce pain and fatigue and improve overall well-being. Keep a water bottle at your desk and sip on it throughout the day.

  • Manage stress: Stress can exacerbate symptoms of endometriosis, so it's important to manage it effectively. Practice stress-reduction techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. Consider talking to a therapist or ELANZA coach if stress is significantly impacting your work and well-being.

  • Practice good ergonomics: Poor posture and ergonomics can contribute to pain and discomfort. Ensure that your desk and chair are set up properly to promote good posture and reduce strain on your body.

  • Use heat therapy: Heat can be an effective tool for managing pain associated with endometriosis. Consider using a heating pad or other heat therapy techniques at work to manage pain and improve comfort.

By prioritizing self-care at work, individuals with endometriosis can manage symptoms, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being.

The key takeaways

  • Endometriosis is a chronic and often debilitating condition that affects an estimated 1 in 10 women of reproductive age. It is characterized by the growth of endometrial tissue outside the uterus, which can cause pain, infertility, and other symptoms.

  • Endometriosis can have a significant impact on women's lives, including their ability to work. Women with endometriosis may need to take time off work for medical appointments or to manage their symptoms, which can affect their productivity and career progression.

  • Employers can support employees with endometriosis by offering flexible working arrangements, such as remote working or flexible hours, to accommodate medical appointments or days when symptoms are particularly severe.

  • Employers can also raise awareness of endometriosis and provide education and training to managers and colleagues to help them understand the condition and how it can affect employees in the workplace.

  • Women with endometriosis may benefit from online resources or employee resource groups that provide a supportive and understanding community and help to reduce feelings of isolation and stigma.

  • It's important for women with endometriosis to advocate for themselves in the workplace and communicate their needs to their employer and colleagues. This can involve discussing accommodations, sharing information about the condition, and seeking support when needed.


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