Physicians and women across the nation are lobbying for greater research and funding for endometriosis, a disorder that occurs when tissue grows outside of the uterine cavity, and impacts roughly 6.5 million women across the United States.
Los Angeles-based obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Iris Orbach, alongside several activists, highlighted the debilitating aspects of the condition at the recent film screening for the documentary “Below The Belt.”
Held at the Senate Hart Building in Washington, D.C., on March 1, the screening examined the lives of Jenneh Rishe, Emily Hatch Manwaring, and Kyung Jeon-Miranda, among others who have lived with the crippling traits of the disorder. Some of the debilitating symptoms include painful menstrual cycles, painful urination and bowel movements, nausea, and an inability to function at work or enjoy day-to-day activities. Currently, there has been no specific cause known for endometriosis, and no cure has been determined.
“I have endometriosis, and my daughters have an increased risk of endometriosis, so this is a very personal film,” said the film’s director and producer, Sharon Cohn. “I first had symptoms at 16 but didn’t hear the word endometriosis until I was 29. So I spent 13 years searching for answers in a veritable revolving door of specialists, tests and medications.”
NIH estimates that endometriosis affects roughly 10 to 15 percent of women within reproductive ages (15-44), with an increased prevalence of up to 70 percent in women who experience chronic pelvic pain. However, numbers of women remain asymptomatic, causing a large rate of undiagnosed cases. Cohn interviewed Orbach who said that funding is critical.
“We know the lesions are inflammatory, [but] to understand how it systemically affects the body – we can then educate. We can pick up these patients right away so they don’t have these systemic longstanding, decade-long diagnoses,” said Orbach. “But, we still need to have an infrastructure for those who have been suffering for a decade or two decades. The way my brain works is if I can understand where something comes from, then I can create a whole path forward to prevent this holistic, systemic disease, but we need funding, we need money.”
Orbach’s approach is what she calls a head-to-toe perspective.
The documentary will premiere on PBS in the United States, on March 29 at 10 p.m. EST.