Kayla Itsines has been announced as the latest ambassador for Endometriosis Australia.
The fitness queen – who was diagnosed with the debilitating medical condition when she was 18 – hid her experience for years before revealing it after the birth of her first child, daughter Arna.
The chronic condition causes tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (endometrium) to grow outside of the organ. The tissue, which has been found on every major organ of the body, often spreads to the bowel and fallopian tubes, causing extreme pain, heavy bleeding, and in many cases, infertility. There is no known cure.
“I feel incredibly honoured to be the newest Endometriosis Australia ambassador and to help raise awareness about this disease,” the 32-year-old said.
“There is currently no cure for endo, but I hope that by sharing my own story and partnering with this amazing organisation, we can encourage and empower women to learn about the signs and symptoms of this disease while improving outcomes for endo sufferers across the country.”
Recent research by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) showed the number of women being diagnosed with endometriosis is on the rise. About one in seven are now affected by the “historically under-recognised” condition by age 40 to 44, up from one in nine in 2019.
“This increase may reflect increased awareness of endometriosis among the general public and health professionals, leading to increased diagnosis and/or reporting of diagnosis among women born more recently,” AIHW spokesperson Katherine Faulks said.
The study also found the rate of hospitalisations for the condition has doubled among women aged 20 to 24 over the past decade – though research by Endometriosis Australia previously found it takes an average of 6.5 years to diagnose, leading many to suffer in silence.
Women often recall being laughed out of hospitals, denied treatment or told nothing can be done.
Endometriosis Australia CEO Maree Davenport said the organisation is “thrilled” to have Itsines as its latest ambassador.
“It’s fitting that we’re partnering with one of Australia’s leading influencers to help spread our message as the peak body championing awareness, education and management of endometriosis,” Ms Davenport said.
“The more voices we have to share stories of their experience, the better to raise awareness and advocate for better outcomes for all Australians living with endometriosis.”
A growing number of high-profile women have lent their voices to the cause in the last year – chief among them Bindi Irwin, who went public in March with the private health battle, one that was so debilitating before she underwent surgery “that it would quite literally just knock me over”.
From the age of 14, the much-loved conservationist “had pain every single day of my life” – not just when she was menstruating.
“We tried and tried and tried for years and years and years [to figure out why], and finally, a doctor told me it was just part of being a woman,” Ms Irwin said.
“And that’s when I gave up. I stopped looking for answers.”
It was that comment that led Irwin to suffer in silence – until 2021, when, after giving birth to her daughter, Grace Warrior, the pain “magnified” to a point where it was “out of this world”.
After sharing her symptoms with a friend who had endometriosis, Irwin was encouraged to undergo invasive laparoscopic surgery – the only reliable way to diagnose the disease.
Further surgery – ablation or (more preferable) excision – to remove the disease is the most common treatment.
While in the US for Christmas with her family, Irwin had excision surgery. Doctors discovered 37 lesions and a chocolate cyst (a cyst filled with dark endometrial fluid) on her ovary, indicating how “aggressive” her endometriosis was, and that she’ll likely require more surgery in the future.
After five months of recovery, “I can officially say that I’m finally feeling better, which is truly extraordinary and something that I actually never thought that I would say,” she said.
“I feel like I got a second chance at life … I feel like a new woman.”