FOR most of her life, strangers have assumed Amelia Veitch is pregnant due to severe bloating.
But every comment feels like a stab in the heart for the 25-year-old - for the reality is, Amelia has suffered three miscarriages due to her endometriosis.
And even though she has daughter Ava-Grace, five, Amelia is now struggling to conceive again due to the agonising condition.
Amelia, from Southend-on-Sea, Essex, is now sharing her story in a bid to raise awareness for the debilitating illness, which has left her unable to fit into her work uniform.
The bank worker said: "People don’t understand the pain that it causes. It’s invisible.
"If you lose a leg people can see, with invisible illnesses it’s a touchy subject to talk about.
"I felt like I wasn’t believed before and I felt so relieved when I was finally diagnosed."
Amelia was first diagnosed with endometriosis in November 2018, despite suffering with debilitating symptoms since the age of nine.
The condition sees tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
It affects one in ten women in the UK and symptoms include migraines, bladder retention, chronic fatigue, heavy periods and severe constipation.
Speaking about her symptoms, she said: "There were times at work when my uniform wouldn’t even fit, and that’s when I have had to call in sick.
"People would say 'congratulations' and ask me when my baby is due.
"Even random people in the street look at my stomach and say 'congratulations'.
"Sometimes I correct them, but it drags me down - it's confidence knocking.
"I bloat when I’m tired, after sex, when I’m ovulating, on my period.
"It affects everything I do, it affects my partner.
"The only clothes I fit into are pyjamas."
Amelia often has to face misplaced pregnancy comments, which she says have hit her especially hard as she has suffered three miscarriages because the condition also affects fertility.
She said: "Correcting people who think I’m pregnant mentally gets me down. It really takes its toll.
"I have difficulty conceiving. With endometriosis you're at higher risk of miscarriage.
"People should think before they ask when it's due because they don't know my personal struggles."
Correcting people who think I’m pregnant mentally gets me down. It really takes its toll. I have difficulty conceiving. With endometriosis you're at higher risk of miscarriageAmelia Veitch
Due to her agonising endometriosis, mum-of-one Amelia has been hospitalised four times this year.
It has even ruined her career as she was forced to quit because the disease leaves her bedridden for up to one week at a time.
She said: "I was working towards a promotion before I quit, but now I look unreliable and it's left us under financial strain.
"I know the paramedics because I have to call them out so often.
Symptoms of endometriosis
Endometriosis is where cells like the ones in the lining of the womb (uterus) are found elsewhere in the body.
Each month, these cells react in the same way to those in the womb - building up and then breaking down and bleeding. Unlike the cells in the womb that leave the body as a period, this blood has no way to escape.
That can lead to infertility, fatigue, bowel and bladder problems, as well as really heavy, painful periods.
It affects one in ten women in the UK.
- Painful, heavy, or irregular periods
- Pain during or after sex
- Chronic pain
- Painful bowel movements
The cause of endometriosis is unknown and there is no definite cure.
According to Endometriosis UK, it takes over seven years on average for women to finally receive a diagnosis.
It's estimated that up to 50 per cent of infertile women has the condition.
Source: Endometriosis UK
"My bladder goes into retention and I have to be catheterised at the hospital.
"I rely on pain relief every day to get me through the day due to the constant unbearable ache that I have in my lower tummy.
"I get a shooting pain up my rectum that’s so painful I have to go to hospital and I’m on daily doses of morphine."
The illness even means Amelia can struggle to take care of her daughter meaning gas technician partner, Chris, 29, is forced to step in.
She said her daughter suffers with separation anxiety because she spends so much time either in bed and in hospital.
Amelia said: "If I’m in pain, I also can’t run around after Ava and I can’t always pick her up from school.
"I’m lucky I’ve got Chris, but it puts pressure on him and our relationship.
More on endometriosis
"He’s working, cooking, doing housework and I’m saying 'get me a hot water bottle, get me this and that'."
Despite her struggles, Amelia plans to go back to work next month and hopes to have another child in the future.
She now works with charity, Women with Endometriosis, who support women living with the little-understood condition.