Friday, September 18, 2015

Getting Rid of the Stigma- Uterus Issues like Fertility and Miscarriage

This next month or two I am focusing on a series of blogs telling the stories of women. About their first sexual encounter, their periods, miscarriages, abortions, adoption, pregnancies and all the things that society has developed stigma's surrounding.

We shouldn't talk about menstruation it's so gross, we should hide and be ashamed of our abortions, we should grieve in silence when it comes to a miscarriage or fertility issues, we should feel dirty if we engage in any type of sexual experience or experimentation or heaven forbid are willing participants in any sort of sex work. Women are paid less money and our body standards are ridiculous, we are told to feel bad if we keep a baby and we are single, hello! God says you need to be married first! But hey, that abortion you want? Nope nada, nothing.

September 25th will be women and their first times.

If you would like to contribute a story to the collection it will be anonymous, only the age you were at the story's time. I want women to feel they can share without the fear of harassment, however if you would like me to include your name or online handle, please let me know. Email me at damianarose777@gmail.com





There are many things that go can go wrong in the Uterus. You can have cysts and cancer and infections. You can also have miscarriages, fertility issues and etopic pregnancies.  Many women do not feel like they can talk about these issues, just like a period, many women feel these are things to hush up, hide, be ashamed of or just not talk about.

However many of these issues come with a butt load of emotional and mental concerns that, to heal from completely, require the woman to be able to talk about it, get out all her worries her fear and her grief.

I am going to go over the three most common types of issues I have seen women be afraid or embarrassed to talk about. These are events in their lives that haven't been treated by others the way they should be with concern, comfort and support, with a shoulder to cry on and someone to simply listen.

By the way October 15th is infant loss awareness day.  You don't have to explain to ANYONE why you are holding that day in your heart, even if you had an abortion, a still birth, or a miscarriage at 4 weeks it doesn't mean you don't feel the loss. Every woman is different and we all need to respect that.


Etopic Pregnancy


What is etopic pregnancy:

"Ectopic pregnancy is a common, life-threatening condition that affects 1 in 80 pregnancies. Put very simply, it means “an out-of-place pregnancy”. It occurs when a woman’s ovum (egg), that has been fertilised, implants (gets stuck somewhere) instead of moving successfully down her fallopian tube into the womb to develop there. The most common place for an ectopic pregnancy is the fallopian tube but there are many other sites where an ectopic pregnancy can be located. It is, sadly, not possible to move an ectopic pregnancy." - This can be a perfect and viable pregnancy in every-way, but where it is located means it can not become a baby, in many cases women have to have their Fallopian tube removed which can cause issues with fertility down the road.

Reference

What are the symptoms:
Positive pregnancy test
Light vaginal bleeding
Nausea and vomiting with pain
Lower abdominal pain
Sharp abdominal cramps
Pain on one side of your body
Dizziness or weakness
Pain in your shoulder, neck, or rectum
If the fallopian tube ruptures, the pain and bleeding could be severe enough to cause fainting.

Reference


What can you do if you have had this happen to you and are having a hard time emotionally and mentally?:
Seek counseling

Actively engage your body in healing therapies

Join an ectopic pregnancy support group or forum

Journal about your journey

Acknowledge your loss, take time to mourn, allow yourself space to process the experience

Pray

Consciously thank your body for all that is does everyday

Believe in your body’s capacity to heal itself

Get body work done or do body work on yourself: Reiki, Maya Abdominal Massage, Self Fertility Massage or acupuncture

Meditate or visualize a healthy pregnancy happening for you as your body is healing

Reference

Understand this is not your fault and you should feel free to talk about it as often and as much as you need to.


Infertility

What can cause infertility:

Hormonal Issues

Scarred Ovaries

Premature Menopause

Follicle Problems

Fallopian Tubes that do not function well
-This can be caused by many things like etopic pregnancy, infection and previous surgeries

Endometriosis

Behavioral Factors
- Like smoking, diet, exercise and alcohol.

Environmental and Occupational Factors
- Like lead, medication and pesticides

Abnormal Uterus

Congenital abnormalities

Reference




What are the symptoms:
Abnormal periods. Bleeding is heavier or lighter than usual.

Irregular periods. The number of days in between each period varies each month.

No periods. You have never had a period, or periods suddenly stop.

Painful periods. Back pain, pelvic pain, and cramping may happen.

Skin changes, including more acne

Changes in sex drive and desire

Dark hair growth on the lips, chest, and chin

Loss of hair or thinning hair

Weight gain

Milky white discharge from nipples unrelated to breastfeeding
Pain during sex

Reference


What are the treatments?:

Fertility Drugs

Intrauterine insemination (IUI)

Surgery to restore fertility

In vitro fertilization (IVF)

Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)

Donor eggs or sperm

Surrogacy

Reference


How many people are affected by this?

The CDC states that 6% of women ages 15-44 suffer from infertility. About 1.5 million

What should I do or say to a friend coping with this?

Here is a handy dandy article to address just that!

How do I help?



Miscarriage


What is a miscarriage?:

A miscarriage is the loss of a baby before the 20th week of pregnancy. When the uterus expels the embryo or fetus because a) there is something wrong with it, b) a trauma has happened or c) an infertility issue.


What are the symptoms?:

Bleeding that progresses from light to heavy
Cramps
Abdominal pain
Fever
Passing of tissue

Reference

What causes a miscarriage?:
Chromosomal Abnormalities- Basically just means that either the egg or the sperm were faulty, we have 23 chromosomes each they are not all perfect.

Uterine Abnormalities and Incompetent Cervixes

Immunologic Disorders- The body views the pregnancy as a foreign object like a germ and tries to get rid of it.

Untreated Illnesses Such as Thyroid Problems

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Lifestyle

An Accident

Trauma- like a car accident or a fall


What are the statistics?:
About 30% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.

Over 80% of miscarriages occur before 12 weeks

It is estimated that 3 out of 4 eggs that are fertilized do not fuse their DNA correctly, and therefore either do not attempt to implant or fail at implantation.





It Could Have Been You

These are stories (and one interview) of women who have dealt with the above topics. I am honored that they shared their stories with me.

         Etopic 

Age of Story 30

      My husband and I got married in September of 2014.  On November 1st, we decided that we wanted to throw away the birth control.  We weren’t “trying”, because that takes all the fun out of it.  We weren’t trying not to get pregnant, either.  I have been on birth control for the better part of the last 12 years, since I was 19.  The only other time I had been off of it my body went a little haywire.  This time around, everything seemed to be operating smoothly.
Towards the end of November, I remember having some weird stomach pains.  My husband, jokingly, said to me, “Maybe I got you pregnant and it’s one of those tubular ones!”  I promptly set him straight on exactly why that wasn’t funny.  He honestly didn’t know how bad that was.  “Besides,” I told him, “I’m just ovulating.”  At least that is what I believed.
In the end of December, I was a little more emotional than usual.  I also just felt different.  So, we decided a pregnancy test was in order.  It came back negative.  No worries, right?  We hadn’t been without birth control that long.
January came, and brought with it the usual winter colds.  My stomach started really hurting on Monday, January 12th.  I was just ovulating, I was sure of it.  Same pain I’d been feeling once a month since I was a teenager.  And the dates added up.   However, the pain just got worse.  My husband went to the doctor on Tuesday and was told he had walking pneumonia.  The doctor told him that I should probably be seen for my cough, too.  By Thursday night the pain was absolutely unbearable.  I relented, and finally went to the doctor.
When I showed up at the doctor’s office on Thursday night, I gave off a list of my symptoms.  Cough, congestion, and oh by the way, this intense abdominal pain.  The doctor told me that he wasn’t so worried about the chest cold.  He told me “We are going to give you a pregnancy test, and hope that it is negative!”  I told him “But I want to be pregnant.”  He told me not this way, as he suspected it was an ectopic pregnancy.  He had confirmed that suspicion I held deep in the back of my mind.  Sure enough, the test came back positive.  He asked me which hospital I was going to go to so that he could call ahead. 
Next came the very emotional call to my husband.  You see all these cute little pregnancy reveal videos and pictures from social media.  Mine consisted of “Honey, I’m pregnant.  The doctor suspects it is an ectopic.  I’m coming home so that you can take me to the ER.”
My husband drove me to the ER.  Once we were there he text messaged my mom and sister for me for support, since I just couldn’t do it.  That night I was poked and prodded more than I have ever been in my whole life.  Needles, which I hate.  Ultrasounds that left me feeling like I had been abducted by aliens.  I kept making jokes (still do, I guess), because that was the only way I could cope.  My husband, knowing how bad I must be hurting, just kept assuring the staff that I was taking this seriously, joking was just my coping mechanism.
At the end of the evening, the ER doctor told me that he wasn’t sure what was going on.  He told me to come back in 48 hours to see if my HCG doubled.  This would mean that it was most likely a healthy pregnancy.  Those were the longest 48 hours of my life.  The pain only intensified and went all the way up to my shoulder.  I went to work on Friday. Fortunately, I only had to work for 2 hours.  My parents took me out to lunch.  I remember telling my mom that intellectually I was trying to tell myself that “You can’t be upset about a losing a pregnancy that you just now found out existed” but that emotionally I had never been so upset.  She explained to me that I had every right to be upset, because I was already seeing the possibilities.  My husband did his best to make me comfortable and to keep me distracted.  We tried to go to the movies, but I couldn’t move.  I am not a religious person but I prayed more in those hours than I ever had in my life.
48 hours later we made our way back to the ER.  Blood tests and more probing ultrasounds were repeated.  The ER doctor was still not sure.  Fortunately, my OB/GYN was on call.  He came to me and told me that my HCG numbers had exactly doubled.  On paper, I had a healthy pregnancy.  However, in real life, the ultrasounds showed it to be in my right fallopian tube.  He told me that he had never seen the numbers be good and have the pregnancy not be healthy in all of his years practicing.  Gee, lucky me.  He gave us the option of methotrexate or surgery.  He said that surgery was the best bet, so that is what I decided. 
I was immediately prepped and taken back for surgery.  The anesthesiologist asked me what I was having done.  I told him a tummy tuck and a nose job because saying “I have an ectopic pregnancy that has to be removed” was just too much for me.  He was kind of an ass and said “No, what are you really here for?”  I wanted to scream “Dick head!  You have my chart in front of you!”
I woke up from surgery a few hours later, sans my right fallopian tube.  I was in a ton of pain, emotionally and physically.  When my doctor came to talk to me, he told me “We were this close to kablooey.”  Some people don’t think that was very professional, but it was what I needed to hear.  It made it seem less scary.  I found out later that the shoulder pain was a pretty big indicator that my tube was going to rupture. 
It has been around 9 months since all this happened.  Yeah, let that sink in for a minute.  It was by far the worst experience in my life.  I have stomach pains daily from scar tissue as a reminder.  It has been tough, but I have just made a point of knowing everything and anything there is to know about ectopic pregnancies.  Unfortunately, there is no preventing them.  And, fun fact, if you have one you are more likely to have another.  I thought that having one less fallopian tube meant that my fertility was decreased by half.  In reality, it is only diminished by 30%.  I have learned more in the last 9 months about being a woman than I have in the previous 30 years.  I’m tougher now than ever because of it.


 Fertility Issues

Age of story 17+

I know when you were younger you were told you might have a hard time conceiving. How old were you and what was your diagnosis: I was 17 and I was told that I have P.C.O.S., polycystic ovary syndrome, and that mine was a severe case and I would never be able to have children without help.

How did this make you feel?: I felt horrible. All I ever wanted to be was a mom and have a family when I was younger so it was a huge blow.

What did you try to help you conceive? Positions, medications etc...: I went on and off birth control trying to regulate my hormones, I tried keeping my hips elevated after sex. Pretty much anything that was said to help I tried. Finally when I gave up trying I was already married to my second husband and then it happened, I got pregnant! It was a miracle to me.

Before you had your son how many miscarriages did you have?: Unfortunately in the space of 2 years before I had my son I had 3 miscarriages.    

How far along were you for each of them?: 11, 12, and 15 weeks each.


I have had a few miscarriages and each is hard in their own way, Tell me about yours, how you felt,what kind of support you had, did you have to go to the hospital?: I went to the hospital with all 3 of them and they said there was nothing they could do and they sent me home as soon as the bleeding stopped. I had no family and no friends in the area at the time and my now ex husband just shrugged it off like it wasn't important and said it would happen when it was meant to happen. I felt like I was being punished for something after trying for 8 years to get pregnant and then having back to back miscarriages like that, it was horrible.

How long did it take before you had your son and was his pregnancy difficult? About 4 months after the last miscarriage I found I was pregnant with my son. I was cautious and followed every rule like some kind of pregnant nazi to make sure nothing would happen this time. It was a rough pregnancy. I had hyperemesis (very severe morning sickness that only 3% of all pregnant women in the world get, lucky me I had it with both children.), and then half way through I developed pre-eclampsia and ended up having him 28 days early because my protein levels were dangerously high. After I had him I hemorrhaged for a few hours and lost almost half of my blood, I had to have two transfusions in 3 days before I was allowed to go home.

You had your daughter not too long after your son, what changed? Did you have a miscarriage between the two? Was she easier to conceive? Or do you think your original diagnosis was incorrect? I found out I was pregnant with my daughter when my son was 10 months old, he refused to breast feed one day so I took a test and it was immediately positive lol. My Dr had told me I had about a 10% chance of having another child, but when I became pregnant she tested my hormone levels and said that breastfeeding must have leveled them out enough for me to ovulate again. 

How was the pregnancy with your daughter? I had hyperemesis again and ended up in the hospital on fluids several times and lost 46lbs in the first 4 months of my pregnancy. After that it was normal until I was hit by a drunk driver when I was 35 weeks and her heart stopped. I had to be monitored 3 times a week after that until I had her. Other than the sickness lasting longer the pregnancy was much easier and much more normal than with my son.

If you don't mind sharing, I know you had to to have full hysterectomy, do you think that all the events prior (ie miscarriages and complicated births) led up to this moment? I had a hysterectomy, but not an oofarectomy, meaning I still have my ovaries even though they don't produce the right amounts of the right hormones (P.C.O.S) because taking out your ovaries can shorten your life span and put you into immediate menopause. My PCOS is why I had it done. I've always been anemic and having super heavy periods that last 4 to 5 months at a time weren't helping.

How does it feel knowing you cannot have more children?: I cried a bit when I first made the decision because it was closing a chapter that was so important in my life. But then I realized that my two are all I can handle, mostly because of my son being autistic, and I'm very, very happy that I can't have any more children.


Is there anything else you would like to say, maybe words of advice for a woman in your similar situation?: Don't let the dr.s tell you what you can and can't do. If you do research, make sure it's from sources that are legitimate. Do what is best for you and your body.

Miscarriage


I was 28 when I found out I was pregnant. After years of telling my mom I was never going to give her grandchildren, I was about to become a mother.
I did a home pregnancy test and followed up with a confirmation to the doctor.
My husband and I were so excited. It was early yet, so no heartbeat could be heard.
I was feeling great. No morning sickness, just a feeling of happiness.
The second visit still resulted in no heartbeat but the doctor didn't seem too worried about it.
At about 12-13 weeks, I felt and looked like I was putting on a little weight and was developing a little pouch. I was quite happy and still no morning sickness.
The next visit, however, was not so good. The doctor still could not detect a heartbeat even though I was growing as I should have been. Not a good sign. He sent me for an ultrasound.
The test showed that while I was progressing, there was no sign of a fetus. I was devastated. The doctor scheduled a D&C.
I had the procedure a few days later as an outpatient. Apparently my uterus was growing and there was a placenta, just no fetus. Since I hadn't had any bleeding, my doctor was at a loss to explain what had happened.
My husband wasn't as upset as I since he felt if there was no baby, then I hadn't really been pregnant.
At home, my mental state, however slid into depression. I wouldn't get out of bed and cried often. My husband couldn't understand why I was so sad and often became angry. Reminding me I hadn't been pregnant, so basically move on and get over it. There may not have been a fetus, but to me, I had been pregnant and the loss for me had been real.
My mom came out and stayed with us for almost a week and took care of me. She understood and helped me out of my depression.
By the end of her visit I was feeling better, but still sad. I carried that sadness for a while, but never spoke of it to my husband, as all it did was make him angry.



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