Published by Refinery29 – UK

A few weeks ago, American writer, actress and director Lena Dunham had to pull out of the promo tour for the new season of her TV show, Girls, because of a “rough patch” with endometriosis. “My body (along with my amazing doctors) let me know, in no uncertain terms, that it’s time to rest,” read her Instagram post on the subject.

Dunham is one of the 176 million women worldwide reportedly affected by the chronic condition that can cause painful periods and sex, as well as irregular and heavy bleeding, fatigue, diarrhoea and even infertility. It happens when the internal tissue of the uterus grows in other areas of the body, but very little is known about its causes and there is no definitive cure, yet.

By making her struggle public, the Girls creator and star has given some overdue visibility to the agony of many other women who, just like her, are forced out of school or jobs because of an illness that is often overlooked. Which is shocking, when you consider that – as Endometriosis Awareness Week (this week) aims to point out – the illness affects one in ten British women of reproductive age.