Why Endometriosis Is Often Ignored Among South Asians

Even with debilitating pain and clear symptoms, many South Asians with endometriosis wait years for the diagnosis and treatment that could change their lives.

Olivia Bowden

October 19, 2022

Why Endometriosis Is Often Ignored Among South Asians
Padma Lakshmi speaking about endometriosis on The View (ABC)

Kanwal Ojha got her period at 11. But while other kids in her classes could run in gym class, or sit at their desks while menstruating, to Ojha, that seemed impossible. She felt her body was at war with her when she got her period, sometimes lasting up to 15 days. “It was this shredding pain. I just felt like my guts were being shredded, my stomach, my uterus, my ovaries, my colon, they were going through a meat grinder,” she said, describing a passage from her teen diary. Though she didn’t know it at the time, Ojha, now 25, had endometriosis, a gynecological condition where tissue grows outside of the uterus and bleeds and sheds during menstruation. Even with her clear symptoms, it took doctors four years to diagnose Ojha.

Research suggests around 42 million women in India have endometriosis, and in Pakistan, it is recognized as a common yet “underestimated” condition among women. And despite a significant lack of research on the prevalence of endometriosis among South Asian women, some evidence suggests that Asian American women have higher rates of endometriosis than their white counterparts. Yet, these patients often do not get the diagnosis, let alone the treatment they need.