If you have been diagnosed with endometriosis – or if you’re still trying to figure out your symptoms, and whether you might have it – you may have seen this yellow ribbon on websites and forums.

What does it mean? 

A looped yellow ribbon is used by several causes to raise awareness. A yellow ribbon symbol or badge can be used to represent suicide awareness or cancer in some countries. No one group or cause owns this symbol, it’s just a helpful way to show solidarity with a cause or illness. The yellow ribbon and the colour yellow have been associated with endometriosis awareness since 1980, when the first brochures and pamphlets about endometriosis were published and distributed.

In 1993, Mary Lou Ballweg founded an Endometriosis Awareness Week during The Endometriosis Association’s roundtable in Milwaukee. The colour yellow was chosen for promotional material and badges.

“I felt that a plain ribbon that did not say anything, especially back in 1993, it did not mean anything. It had to say something about endometriosis. So we put the wording on it, ‘Ask me about endometriosis’ and felt that, in elevators, offices, and in walking around people will go, ‘Oh, what is it?’ It is an awareness tool.”

The campaign to raise awareness of endometriosis was going on long before social media existed. Despite the heroic efforts of campaigners, endometriosis remains an under-diagnosed illness. This has improved somewhat, but there is still some way to go. The yellow endometriosis ribbon is a symbol of that struggle, and an effective way to raise awareness of a hidden but life-altering condition.