Be warned: wearing tight clothes could trigger endometriosis

Tight pants, skinny jeans, skirts, corsets and other restrictive, tight clothing are fashionable and trendy and many people, especially ladies, can be seen wearing them day in day out.

Celebrities and every day people alike have been squeezing into slimming, tight clothing for centuries. Whether it was corsets in the Victorian Age or skinny jeans in modern times, the fashion to be thin has been unsurpassed.

But have you ever stopped to consider the consequences of wearing such clothes?

Research carried out by Professor John Dickinson of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology titled ‘Could tight garments cause endometriosis? links tight clothing to endometriosis, a gynaecological medical condition that can cause infertility in women.

According to the research, tight clothes may provide the force required to drive endometrial cells from the womb to accumulate at the ovaries.

“There has never been a direct comparison of intra-abdominal solid tissue pressure between people wearing and not wearing commonplace tight abdominal garments. But it seems reasonable that such garments would produce at least a small sustained rise of intra-abdominal pressure,” writes Dickinson in the research.

He suggests that what garments a woman wears during her menstrual days could be important.

“If the garments are so tight-fitting as to produce even a small sustained rise of intra-abdominal solid tissue pressure, retrograde menstruation is likely to occur when the garments off and when the salpingo-uterine junction is relaxed between uterine contractions,” he notes.

His hunch is supported by the fact that the condition seems not to exist in countries where loose clothing is the norm.

“Almost all women in India wear sarees and have no cosmetic need for constricting garments. Amongst about 9000 articles in West African, Central African and East African medical journals, there is only one report of endometriosis from Central Africa, but the five women studied were all from professional classes and may have been wearing Westem-style clothes,” he says.

In today’s current society, many people like to wear clothes which are trendy. Fashions and designs of clothes keep on changing since everyone seems to be looking out for an outfit which is fashionable and will keep them at pace with others.

According to Dr. Alfred Murage, a Consultant Gynaecologist and Fertility Specialist, there is some scientific postulation that tight clothes have an effect on the balance of pressures inside the abdomen.

“This may also translate into changes in pressure inside the pelvic organs which may disrupt uterine function. Potentially spillage of cells from inside the uterus to abnormal locations in the pelvis may then be implicated as a cause for endometriosis,” says Murage.

He goes on to add that other than endometriosis, other typical effects of tight clothes include numbness due to compression of nerves, muscular cramps due to compression of blood vessels, direct effects on the skin due to pressure of tight clothes, heartburn due to back pressure on the stomach and small intestines and in severe cases, low blood pressure and fainting due to reduced blood to the heart following compression of blood vessels.

Yvonne Nadongo agrees with the idea that what you wear speaks volumes about you.

She says: “I do not wear tight clothes. I just can’t stand the discomfort that comes with it. I prefer well-fitting clothes-and not buggy-because they can work well for all occasions. I feel at ease in them.”

She admits that tight clothes are not good as far as one’s health is concerned.

“From the little I know, when women’s pubic areas are kept tightly under wraps, the area becomes very warm and moist. This makes it a breeding ground for bacteria and, as a result, can cause yeast infections. The vaginal area becomes very itchy, irritating and painful. Tight clothes and under garments also slow down the rate of digestion thus resulting into digestion problems. Hence it would be better to wear what fits you well and keeps you comfortable.”

Connecting the relationship between fashion and health, Murage says it is best to wear well-fitting clothes as much as possible.

“If it is necessary to wear tight clothes, this should be limited to just occasional periods, with a reversal to loosely fitting clothes as soon as possible.”

Dr. Ignatius Kibe, a reproductive health expert says it has been possible to scientifically blame infertility on tight garments and subsequently associate infertility to endometriosis.

“When a woman’s menstrual flow is forced to retrograde or flow back from the cervix upwards it is said to be retrograde flow. When someone wears constricting garments, their will be increased intra-abdominal flow from the cervix to the upper parts of the uterus,” says Kibe.

“Pressure on the cervix forces any fluid to push backwards. Such sustained rise of intra-abdominal pressure which will be intermittently released when one wants to go for short or long calls will definitely cause disturbances in the endometrium.”

“On the lighter side, it is common knowledge that tight fitting clothes do not allow air flow to the external and urinary reproductive organs.  This predisposes one to the proliferation of the urinary tract and sexually transmitted diseases such as yeast, chlamydia, mixed infections and cystitis. All these conditions can precipitate blocked fallopian tubes resulting into sterility.”

Well-fitting clothes need to be the fashion-friendly choice for any woman.

About Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition where the cells that would normally be located on the lining of the uterus are found outside of the uterus. This is usually mainly along the surfaces of other pelvic organs like the ovaries, surfaces of the intestines, or even bladder. Such cells continue to behave the same way as they would inside the uterus.

Because of the abnormal location and response to female hormones, the consequent effect is severe pelvic pain and scarring (called adhesions). There may also be swellings on the ovaries that contain blood (called endometriomas in medical terms).

Women with endometriosis usually have reduced fertility potential due to tubal damage and ovarian function disturbance. Some end up needing advanced fertility treatment in order to conceive.

Those at risk of suffering from endometriosis are women who have never been pregnant, those with developmental abnormalities of the reproductive organs, and those with a family history of endometriosis.

Endometriosis is fairly common in Kenya, but mostly goes undiagnosed for various reasons.  However, it is difficult to attribute the cause just to tight clothing because several other factors may also be at play.

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