Hillary Clinton at the NYC premiere of Below the Belt
After premiering at MoMA in New York City, Below the Belt—a documentary about endometriosis from Endo What? director Shannon Cohn, and executive producers Hillary Clinton, Rosario Dawson, Corinne Foxx and Mae Whitman—is airing on PBS June 21.
"I had endometriosis when I was 16 years old, yet I didn't hear the word until I was 29," said director Cohn at a screening at The Britely in Los Angeles on April 26. The disease—in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus—affects 200 million girls and women worldwide, puts a burden of $116 billion on the U.S. economy each year and is the cause of 50% of infertility in women. However, most women don't receive a diagnosis for nearly 10 years, and many doctors dismiss patients who suffer from severe abdominal pain, painful sex, gastro issues and pregnancy problems. "And now we know what the term is—it's called gaslighting," said Cohn, who had unsuccessful ablation surgery before finding specialist Dr. Iris Orbuch. The two held a Q&A following a screening of the film, which follows four women who search for answers to their mysterious and paralyzing symptoms.
Director Shannon Cohn speaks at the NYC premiere.
"Ironically, fast-forward 18 years into my career, I was diagnosed with endometriosis finally," said Dr. Orbuch, whose daughter also had the disease and ended up having excision surgery. "So I was drawn to something, it was like this calling...and it's been great trying to figure out, 'How do we solve a problem when we don't have a path to solve a problem'?" Dr. Orbuch takes a whole-body approach, not only surgically excising the endometriosis, but working alongside pelvic floor physical therapists, psychologists, gastroenterologists, acupuncturists and more.
Dr. Iris Orbuch (in pink on left) with executive producer Mae Whitman (right)
Since last May's premiere, the film has screened to sold-out audiences in London, Paris and Toronto, as well as at learning instutions like Harvard Medical School, MIT, Yale and Princeton. In March, members of Congress saw the film at a special screening co-hosted by Elizabeth Warren and Mitt Romney—in hopes of raising awareness and funding for this disease which affects 1 in 9 women, but which recieves little in the way of insurance coverage or research funding.