A woman is constantly mistaken for being pregnant due to bloating caused by a crippling condition.
Abbie Eckert, 24, suffers from endometriosis, where tissue starts to grow in areas such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
It also causes Abbie to have what she calls a 'pregnant-looking stomach’, a symptom she says is beginning to have an affect on her mental health and body confidence.
"It really took a toll on my mental health when I would get stopped on the bus by people asking when I was expecting," Abbie, from Gateshead in the UK said.
"The bloating is constant, it doesn’t ever go away.
"I’ve got a pregnant looking stomach and I’d compare myself to other girls that I was working with [before the diagnosis].”
Abbie's endometriosis affects her fertility and, prior to her diagnosis in November 2014, the young woman suffered a miscarriage.
Now when strangers ask her if she's pregnant, the tragic memories are brought back.
"Fertility is something that is my biggest concern, I lost a baby and since then I’ve always been so scared if I will ever have that chance again,” she said.
"Fertility lives in my head every day wondering whether or not I’ll be able to have children.
"I fantasise about becoming a mother and having been told that my fertility is at risk was very difficult to hear, no one wants to hear that their dream of having children one day may or may not come true."
Symptoms of endometriosis include migraines, bladder retention, chronic fatigue, heavy periods and severe constipation.
Abbie, who has experienced all these symptoms, said: "I would have horrific pains before my period and sometimes during my period where I would be in crippling pain and it would stop me from doing any form of activity.
"I was at work once and I felt a dense pain in my right hand side of my ovary.
"At the time I didn’t know that was where the pain exactly was but the only way I can describe the pain is as if my lower abdomen or stomach was wrapped in barbed wire that was getting tighter and tighter.
"It was excruciating.”
Due to her agonising endometriosis, Abbie has been hospitalised twice although her symptoms were originally mistaken for severe period pains.
"I was at work and I dropped to the floor so my colleague called an ambulance,” she said.
"I was rolling around on the floor screaming in agony.I’d never felt anything like it before.”
While she claims doctors told her it was just a bad period, she knew it wasn’t.
"Bad periods are bad, but this was astronomical but oddly enough the pain seemed to die down after a couple of hours then it would go completely as if nothing had happened,” she said.
"But every flare up leaves my body feeling exhausted physically and mentally.”
Abbie said she lost motivation to go to the gym and ‘felt disgusting and thought people were laughing at her’.
"I could never wear my clothes with confidence and at the start of my relationship I couldn’t get dressed in front of my partner,” she said.
"Only this year I’ve accepted that I'm not fat but I have a chronic condition and with the help from my partner that I’m beautiful inside and out.
"He’s really helped with building my confidence and helped me ‘normalise’ it when really it isn’t normal to look like you're six months pregnant.
"I’m just taking each day as it comes and I will eventually start doing things to improve my bloating like going to the gym and having a clean diet but I think having my diagnosis this year has really took a big chunk of my life and I’m just trying to accept that I have what I have and learn to accept every part of it mentally."
Abbie is speaking out to raise awareness of the condition.
"Having endometriosis, you have your own story and mine probably doesn’t come close to the majority of women that experience this but I feel it’s very unheard of and not many know about it as it’s mistaken for a bad period,” she said.
"Please go get checked out, your body will tell you if it’s anything more than just a painful period.
"Listen to your body and don’t wait around like I did."
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