At 20-years-old, young Derbyshire woman Lauren Bird should have her whole life ahead her.
The dental nurse dreams of setting up her own practice and having a family- but her plans have been hindered by a painful, long-term condition.
Like many other gynecological conditions, endometriosis is unfairly shrouded in shame- which can leave girls and women embarrassed to ask for help.
Now Lauren, from Stonebroom in North East Derbyshire, is keen to break the silence and stigma by sharing her story with the Derbyshire Times.
When she started her period aged 14, Lauren noticed she had crippling pain and excessive bleeding.
"I was told by the doctor that everyone who has a period experiences heaving bleeding and pain," she said.
"But I knew that something was wrong. I was on all kinds of painkillers, such as codeine. You name it, I was on it.
"But they didn't help. At one point, the pain was so severe that I was hospitalised.
"You'll know what it's like if you've ever been really ill or had continuous pain. It can get you really down- I never felt right.
"My parents marched me back to the doctors and sat in the appointment with me. They're a lot more vocal than me and pushed for further tests.
"Eventually I was diagnosed with endometriosis."
The endometrium is the tissue that lines the inside of the womb, or uterus.
Endometriosis is a condition where endometrial tissue is found outside the uterus.
It is 'trapped' in the pelvic area and lower tummy and, sometimes, in other areas in the body.
But it most commonly involves the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining the pelvis.
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Symptoms include painful periods, pain with intercourse and bleeding between periods as well as fatigue, bloating and nausea.
Tragically, doctors also told Lauren that at this stage there is no way of knowing whether or not she'll be able to have children.
"That part was hard," added Lauren, a former pupil at Tibshelf Community School. "I've always wanted to have kids.
"I was also born with a biocornate uterus, or a dipped uterus, which can exacerbate things."
To ease her symptoms, doctors have placed Lauren in a 'chemical menopause' using hormone treatment.
"Unfortunately this comes with a side-effects of the actual menopause," said Lauren. "Like hot flushes and dizziness.
"I'm only 20 and didn't think I'd have to deal with the menopause till much later, so it can be pretty rubbish.
"I may be able to have an operation to burn the growth of my uterus but at the moment, I'm not sure I want to go through something so intrusive."
Endometriosis can be life-changing, but it's actually quite common- around 1 in 10 women are estimated to have it.
"I was surprised to find out how common it was," said Lauren. "As it can take such a toll both physically and mentally.
"In the past, when I'd be ill at work and try my best to explain it to my boss, they never knew what I was talking about.
"It's not taken seriously. One boss, a middle-aged bloke, told me to grow up.
"That's why it's important for me to get the word out. If my story opens just one person's eyes to endometriosis that'd be great."
For more information visit the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/endometriosis/
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