When I turned 30, I began to experience very painful periods. The cramping would be so intense that I’d have to lay on the couch, shaking and perspiring and consume painkillers to get through the day. I thought this was normal as I was getting older. The age of 30 is also when I got married and began trying to conceive. I started my journey with fertility acupuncture. During this stage of my infertility battle, my acupuncturist strongly suspected that I suffered from endometriosis, a condition in which the tissue that should line the uterus actually grows outside of the uterus. I was familiar with the term but ignorant to the full capacity of its impact on the female reproductive system.
Throughout my acupuncture treatments, I continued to suffer from very painful periods and heavy bleeding. Although I did not have a definitive medical diagnosis of endometriosis, my acupuncturist’s suspicion led me to do my own research. My findings left me feeling confused, helpless and depressed. To my surprise, I learned that the tissue can grow on the ovaries, fallopian tubes and even the intestines. I also discovered that there are four stages of endometriosis (minimal, mild, moderate and severe). Of the most concern to me was learning that up to 50% of infertile women suffered from endometriosis. I started to panic but was too fearful to get checked. Treatments varied from mild to invasive – heating pad, hormone therapy, incision surgery, electrosurgery, laparoscopy, cauterization, and various ablations. I was not open to any of these options if I did, in fact, have endometriosis so instead, I took a proactive stance and began eating a healthy diet, exercising, getting more rest and continuing acupuncture.
As time went on, I was unable to achieve pregnancy via acupuncture or multiple rounds of IUI so I moved on to IVF, where I finally received a diagnosis of posterior adenomyosis, in which the endometrial tissue grows into the uterine wall. Adenomyosis is in the same family as endometriosis but differs in that it generally appears in childbearing years and can resolve itself post-menopause. My reproductive endocrinologist explained that he would have to shrink my adenomyosis prior to starting an IVF round in order to provide me with the best possible environment to welcome a pregnancy.
I’m so thankful I continued to look for answers to my symptoms and was referred to Dr. Wilcox of HRC Pasadena who played a big role in creating my miracle baby boy. My nearly four-year infertility journey taught me that our bodies are always trying to tell us a story – it is crucial for women to listen to their bodies, be proactive, seek answers and find doctors who will take their concerns seriously. Endometriosis and adenomyosis can be devastating diagnosis’ but they do not guarantee that you won’t be a mother. With the proper protocol, diligent and caring reproductive endocrinologist and support system, you can find a way to manage/treat it and still see your dreams become a reality. Hold on to hope and know that there is help available to you. During my personal journey, I felt the desire to use my struggle to empower and inspire other women which led me to write my book, Hope Strong, that I truly hope will provide you with the very strength and comfort you need to get through this season of your life and become confident that infertility, endometriosis, adenomyosis or any other diagnosis does not define you, nor does it have to alter the future you envision for yourself.