“For 10 years I have struggled with insurmountable fatigue, pain and nausea,” wrote Irwin, 24. “A doctor told me it was just something you deal with as a woman and I just gave up trying to function through the pain.”
A number of studies support the claim that women with pain are often not taken as seriously as men, The Washington Post reported in December. Studies show that dismissing women’s pain can affect the treatment of a wide range of health problems, including heart problems, stroke, chronic diseases and endometriosis, the report noted.
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Irwin said she had debated whether to speak publicly about her experience, but felt she owed it to other women struggling to get help.
“I’m sharing my story for anyone reading this who is quietly dealing with pain and no answers. Let this be your confirmation that your pain is real and you deserve help,” she added.
Irwin said with the support of her friends and family, she finally found a diagnosis and underwent surgery. She said doctors found 37 lesions, some of which were “very deep and difficult to remove”, but that she is now recovering.
Irwin’s post coincides with Endometriosis Awareness Month. The disease affects about 10 percent of women and girls of reproductive age globally, or 190 million people, according to the World Health Organization.
“Validation for years of pain is indescribable,” Irwin wrote.
Endometriosis develops when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus, usually around the reproductive organs, bowel and bladder. The tissue triggers a chronic inflammatory response that can cause scar tissue and lesions, according to the WHO.
Symptoms can include severe pelvic pain, fatigue, painful periods and urination, bloating, nausea and depression, the WHO says. The disease can also cause infertility.
“The variable and broad symptoms of endometriosis mean that health professionals cannot easily diagnose it,” says the WHO, which describes the disease as “complex” and calls for further attention.
There is no one specific cause of the disease, and experts usually treat symptoms with medicine or surgery.
‘This Is Endometriosis’: Life with a Chronic Illness
In his Twitter post, Irwin also urged people not to ask women about their plans regarding children. “Please pause before you ask me (or any woman) when we are going to have more kids,” she wrote. “After all that my body has been through, I feel extremely grateful that we have our beautiful daughter.”
Irwin gave birth to Grace Warrior in March 2021. She is married to Chandler Powell, a professional wakeboarder and conservationist — who paid tribute to Irwin on Instagram on Tuesday, calling her his “inspiration.”
“Seeing how you pushed through the pain to care for our family and continue our conservation work while completely riddled with endometriosis is something that will inspire me forever,” Powell wrote.
While Irwin sometimes appeared on television as a young girl alongside her father during documentaries, public interest in Irwin skyrocketed after her father was killed by a stingray while filming on the Great Barrier Reef in 2006.
Lindsey Bever contributed to this report.