There was a large turnout for a documentary screening on endometriosis in Letterkenny last night, where what happens ‘below the belt’ was no longer a taboo, but an open talking point.

Screen six of Century Complex hosted a special showing of ‘Below the Belt’, a US-based film about women’s personal struggles with endometriosis diagnosis, treatment and fertility.

Donegal woman Kathleen King, a patient advocate, says there is still hope that this area of women’s health will see more research and more funding.

“Change is slow, but it’s happening,” Kathleen said.

“Documentaries like this are bringing much-needed awareness to endometriosis, a condition that steals women’s quality of life. The pain, the struggles, the impact on fertility – it’s all too real. We need better diagnosis, treatment, and support for those battling this invisible disease. It was fantastic to see a good turnout in Donegal for such an important event.”

Around one in 10 women are affected by endometriosis. It can take an average of 9 years to get a diagnosis for this chronic disease, and can be longer if symptoms present in younger women.

The lived realities of women and their search for answers were played out on the screen and reflected in discussions afterwards.

From Back L-R: Dr Matt McKernan, Dr Siobhan Kelleher. Front L-R: Cheryl Rock and Kathleen King at the special screening of ‘Below the Belt’ at Letterkenny’s Century Cinemas. Photo by Annette Sweeney

The panel was joined by Dr Matt McKernan from the Letterkenny University Hospital Gynaecology Department and Dr Siobhan Kelleher, the founder and CEO of OnaWave Medical, a medtech company based in the West of Ireland that focuses on improving the diagnosis and treatment of pelvic conditions.

Dr Kelleher commented that “women’s health is on the agenda globally” and, slowly but surely, the scientific world is acknowledging the female body. Years of research and development have been carried out at the University of Galway to develop a digital biomarker for earlier and easier diagnosis of endometriosis.

Kathleen King and Dr Siobhan Kelleher, University of Galway.

According to Kathleen King, it is imperative for both the medical community and society as a whole to give endometriosis the attention it deserves and to have faith in women’s accounts. A minimum of 200 women in Ireland travel abroad for endometriosis surgery every year.

The event was also promoted by St Johnston filmmaker Cheryl Jane Rock. Recently diagnosed, Cheryl says that ‘Below The Belt’ has acted as a lifeline for her in helping to come to terms with chronic illness.

“Below the Belt speaks to thousands of women’s experience around the world, and in Ireland,” Cheryl said.

“There is value in clinicians and patients working this out respectively, together.”

Kathleen King commented that it’s clear that people are up for driving the conversation forward. Following on from yesterday’s screening, it is hoped that more informal events can take place in Donegal.

The conversation continues on DEARG (Delivering Endometriosis and Adenomyosis Research and Guidance) Ireland’s only podcast dedicated to endometriosis. Awareness is also rising among young people in Donegal through MISE (Menstrual Information, Specialising in Endometriosis) a schools programme that launched in Donegal in March 2024.

The Endometriosis Association of Ireland is there for all affected by endometriosis, and they run an online education and support group: