First of all, thank you to everyone who has reached out in person and online to say nice things about the first ‘instalment’ of this new blogging venture. While writing these blogs I’ve been momentarily worried about where the TMI line is – but I’ve decided that line doesn’t exist. So prepare for gruesome details – MUM.
Looking back, there were dozens of signs that something wasn’t quite right with my reproductive and sexual health and I’ll discuss those signs next time, but in this blog I want to fast-track slightly, and talk about when there was no longer any doubt.
When did I know for certain that something was up with my reproductive health?
Pain is the answer. Horrible, horrible pain during sex. It had been a long time since my last sexual encounter, but there was no way I could pin that kind of pain on a period of celibacy nor on my partner’s ‘proportions’ (hello, if you’re reading!) There was nothing normal or healthy about that level of pain. Yet, I persisted, at the advice of my friends and doctors, and I tried for a short period of time to try other positions, to take ibuprofen before sex, but there was little relief.
The two other signals that this pain wasn’t entirely normal was that it continued for one to three days after sex and that it’s location was similar to where I feel period pain, deep in my gut and lower back. This was not how I anticipated my return to sex to be at all and it certainly put a bummer on a revived love-life.
My period pains, already bad, had become worse since I had sex too. No longer just knocking me out for a couple of days, but they were now sharp, stabbing and breathtaking, before and during my period. Constipation had become trend after sex and the week before my period and the pain also began to present itself when I ran. Today I am struggling with period and ovulation pain three out of four weeks – that to me is a clear a sign as any that something ain’t right.
What made doctors take notice?
One complaint I frequently hear from women with issues with their reproductive health is that they are not taken seriously by their doctors. I was lucky to fall into the care of a doctor who herself has endometriosis, a consideration that I think has been invaluable to my positive experience with the doctors.
After explaining my irregular periods and this new found pain to a doctor I was, understandably, first sent for a full sexual health check. I was also having this test as I toyed with the idea of getting an IUD. A different doctor, let’s call her Dr H, carried this out and became my GP and port-of-call for all things uterus related. She was asking the routine questions when she asked ‘any pain during sex?’ To which I replied ‘ohhhh yes’. She then began to quiz me about the pain and she asked ‘it’s not a deep pain, is it?’ I said, ‘actually, that is exactly how I would describe it’. Polycystic ovaries had already been mentioned but this was the first occasion endometriosis was suggested.
The next part of the sexual health test was a pelvic exam. There’s something both incredibly funny and concerning about at doctor, who’s hand is way up in you looking up at you between your legs and saying, ‘I can’t seem to find your cervix, has anyone ever had trouble finding it before?’ Laughing, I said, ‘no – no one’s ever looked!’ Two speculums later she found my cervix but concluded that my uterus was slightly retroverted – tipped. She also suggested that if it is endometriosis, sometimes scar tissue can build up and tip the uterus. I’ve never read anything to support that though. This discovery also meant the IUD or IUS was no longer a contraceptive option for me as my cervix sits ‘too far back’.
Once the sexual health test came back negative we began discussing in depth my symptoms and the patterns in my pain. The next red flag was raised at the trend of sex and the arrival of my period with constipation. From here, I was referred onto a gynaecology appointment – a story for another day.