The Scoop: Endometriosis is a chronic condition that affects nearly 170 million people worldwide and seriously impacts how singles with the condition navigate dating and relationships. ELANZA is an app that empowers individuals with endometriosis to learn more about the condition and symptom management options, become their own strongest advocates, and try out digital interventions. 

Endometriosis is a medical condition that affects up to 10% of women and adolescents across the globe – that’s around 170 million people. Up to 50% of women who are infertile have endometriosis, as do 50-80% of women who struggle with pelvic pain.

Despite being a common condition, endometriosis is often misdiagnosed, and some doctors don’t even know about or acknowledge it. 

Unfortunately, many people who have endometriosis have experienced medical neglect, gaslighting, and other negative encounters in healthcare, all while experiencing the debilitating pain and enduring symptoms of endometriosis.

Dating with a chronic illness comes with experiences that can be jolting, disempowering, and hurtful. Sometimes, even taking the first step to try dating can be difficult while managing the symptoms of endometriosis. Brittany Hawkins thinks it doesn’t need to be this way.

Brittany Hawkins is the co-founder and CEO of ELANZA, a digital platform designed to help people manage endometriosis. 

She talked to us about her personal and professional experiences in reproductive health care, how endometriosis impacts day-to-day life and dating, and how ELANZA is empowering people with endometriosis to connect with community and discover multimodal approaches to symptom treatment.

“We realized how big the chasm is between women’s knowledge about their own bodies and then what’s actually known and how we support and address women’s issues at any stage of our reproductive lifespan,” Brittany said. 

Brittany’s Background in Reproductive Healthcare Advocacy

Before ELANZA, Brittany and her co-founder, Catherine Hendy, co-wrote a book about egg freezing. The duo worked with 25 fertility doctors and reviewed over 3,000 medical journals throughout the process of authoring the book.

“I think the real shock to us was not only realizing how little was actually written about women’s fertility and how little we knew going into it,” Brittany said. “But how little doctors knew and how much variance there was in their perspectives.”

Brittany said she was expecting to find general scientific or medical agreement in at least some areas related to the topic of her book. “Things that we thought would be tried-and-true science were actually more like art,” she explained.

ELANZA offers a holistic approach to endometriosis symptom management.

Brittany and Catherine both came from families that worked in healthcare and were familiar with Western medical approaches to reproductive health. After doing the research on fertility for their book, they realized that treatment and support for reproductive health needed to go beyond the confines of the healthcare system.

“Through our fertility work, we learned that 50% of infertility is due to endometriosis,” Brittany said. “Those are the people that were really struggling the most with trauma and mental health issues. After much work in fertility, we decided to translate our work for endometriosis.”

There is no cure for endometriosis, and much of treatment is focused on decreasing the severity of symptoms and improving quality of life. “Endometriosis is so complex and difficult to solve,” Brittany said. “Our approach is looking at three key areas: education, self-advocacy, and digital interventions.”

ELANZA Simplifies Endometriosis Education & Support

ELANZA was designed as a tool people with endometriosis can turn to whenever they need holistic whole-body support. The app helps users understand and track their symptoms and then offers support resources when needed.

“Throughout the month, there are any number of feelings that you’re going to have, based on your pain level, emotional state, and other factors,” Brittany said. “These are moments where people need acute support.”

Users tell ELANZA about their physical or mental experiences, and ELANZA can connect them with appropriate resources. 

ELANZA offers multi-faceted digital interventions.

“If you’re feeling lonely, which is often how people feel when they’re feeling isolated, we have a lot of resources around support, story-sharing, and mantras and meditations. There’s just so much we can do from a comprehensive and holistic perspective,” Brittany said.

Unfortunately, Brittany said it’s common for people with endometriosis to have negative experiences with healthcare providers. For many people who have been diagnosed with endometriosis, it’s a familiar tale.

“If you can imagine seeing three doctors, and you’re experiencing this intense pain,” Brittany said. “All of them tell you that it’s your period, and it’s normal, and it’s nothing to worry about. You know there’s something wrong with your body, but your doctor insists there isn’t.”

Brittany said this is the definition of medical gaslighting. “And it’s not some nefarious plan from your doctor,” she continued. “Many doctors just don’t know much about this condition, and they don’t have the tools to help people manage it. So people end up being ignored.”

The symptoms of endometriosis are challenging enough, and the condition becomes that much harder to navigate when medical professionals can’t make a proper diagnosis. 

“This can create a sense of self-isolation and cause people to feel afraid to reach out because they’re afraid of getting dismissed or don’t know how to talk about it,” Brittany said.

Tips for Navigating Dating with Endo

Brittany told us the mental health complications that often accompany endometriosis can be the most significant hurdle that prevents people with the condition from dating. “On that mental health side, everything going on can feel so isolating, and that can prevent you from getting out there and dating.”

Dating with a chronic illness comes with challenges, and one of these challenges is having transparent conversations from the get-go.

“Then there’s the conversation you want to have with somebody you’ve just started dating, and I feel like a lot of people feel like they’re hiding something,” Brittany said. “Whether it’s fertility, or pain during sexual intercourse, or just how the condition affects them day-to-day.”

Brittany said feelings of fear, isolation, and anxiety can prevent people with endometriosis from dating. Still, there are tactics and support that can make the dating experience easier to navigate and less stressful.

date with confidence
Every person deserves authentic and empowering dating experiences.

“There are plenty of people with endometriosis in happy and thriving relationships,” Brittany said. “It’s just really important to have those conversations and be honest about the seriousness of the condition. Also, be honest about where you are in your treatment journey.”

Endometriosis comes with severe pain during menstruation. Brittany said singles with endometriosis should strive to plan dates around their schedule, and as they learn more about when their symptoms are most severe, they can avoid those times for planning dates. 

It’s all about showing up feeling confident, comfortable, and ready for experience.

“The unfortunate truth is that much of the medical community is in the dark about this condition,” Brittany said. “Our goal is to be side by side with each of our members and try to help them figure out things they can do to improve their lives.”