Endometriosis, biographical appraisals and the couple unit




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Peer reviewed


Endometriosis is a chronic condition affecting between 2-17% of women of reproductive age. Common symptoms are chronic pelvic pain, fatigue, severe pain during menstruation, heavy menstrual bleeding, and pain during sex. The ESRC-funded Endopart study (www.endopart.co.uk) aimed to explore the impact of endometriosis on women and their male partners. This paper reports findings relating to the biographical disruption which couples experience when living with endometriosis.

In-depth, face-to-face interviews with 22 heterosexual couples were conducted. Women and their partners were interviewed separately (n=44). Interviews were fully transcribed and entered into NVivo for analysis. Data were analysed using a systematic, thematic method, informed by an interpretivist relational approach.

Biographical disruptions (Bury, 1982) are not only experienced by chronically ill individuals but also by those around them. Findings suggest that endometriosis creates disruptions, appraisals and revisions across several life domains, including sexual relations, planning for and having children, working lives and social lives outside the home, both for women and for male partners. Using Williams’ (2000) qualification of the concept of biographical disruption, the paper discusses how timings and context mediate the impact of endometriosis on biographical disruption. Drawing on the idea that the fashioning of selves and of relationships is reflexive and contingent, it discusses how biographical appraisals in light of endometriosis are recurrent and have to be continually negotiated between partners. Finally it explores how couples strategically mobilise resources to maximise favourable outcomes and maintain a sense of hope.



endometriois, chronic illness, couples, biographical disruption


Law, C, Culley, L, Hudson, N, Denny, E. and Mitchell, H. (2013) Endometriosis, biographical appraisals and the couple unit. Paper presented to the British Sociological Association's 2013 Medical Sociology Annual Conference, University of York, UK, 11-13 September 2013.


Research Institute

Centre for Reproduction Research (CRR)