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I will never forget that day. I went in for my annual women’s well check-up, as they call it. I had all of the standard tests run and I left, relieved that I wouldn’t have to return for another year. I was healthy, took care of myself, ate the right things and even exercised. There was nothing out of the ordinary when it came to how I was feeling. But then I got the call…
My OB/GYN told me that I would have to come back in to discuss the results of my pap test. I was in my early 20’s and had never gotten a call like this. Usually, they mailed out a postcard with the date of my next appointment and a little note to let me know that all was well with my test results. I couldn’t think of any reason that something would be wrong. My cycle was a little longer and heavier than most, but I knew plenty of friends with the same issues and always thought it was normal.
As I drove to that appointment, I was shaken. A million things went through my mind. My friend came along with me for moral support and was trying to take my mind off of it. She was certain that it was nothing and would be nothing. But I knew that they wouldn’t have me come in to discuss nothing.
The actual visit is a blur. I remember her using terms like “abnormal test results” and “biopsy”. I was 23, single and had no kids. I didn’t understand what that meant for me or for my future. Did I have cancer? Would I be able to have children one day? I thought things like this didn’t happen until you are much older. I was very wrong. She did the biopsy that same day and it was excruciating. The sounds, the thoughts, the uncertainty of it all. When she was done, she allowed my friend to come back into the room and I remember telling her that I felt like I was going to pass out. A few minutes later, a nurse was in the room with a sugary drink and made a comment about how pale I was.
The next few days were brutal. I waited for that phone call which would determine the next steps. What they found was that I had precancerous cells and would have to have a procedure called cryosurgery, where they use liquid nitrogen to destroy the precancerous cells in your cervix. She assured me that the procedure was painless and once it was finished, my body would replace those cells with new, healthy cells. Everything was going to be ok but I would have to come in more often, to make sure my body was doing everything it should be.
Importance of Below the Belt Health
While this was probably the scariest doctor’s appointment I had ever been to, it opened my eyes to the importance of below the belt health. I often wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t made that appointment. So many women skip their annual check-ups… I was one of them! But the key to taking care of yourself, is getting that annual checkup so that if something is abnormal, you can catch it and stop it from becoming something so much worse.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I fixed the issue and was able to give birth to three perfect little girls. I can’t imagine my life without them and I can’t imagine what my life would have been like, if it weren’t for that one doctor’s appointment. Now, I make sure to ask lots of questions at my annual checkup and bring up anything that might require attention. When we discovered I had a number of ovarian cysts at my last checkup, I’ve been even more aware of getting myself checked out on a regular basis.
Believe it or not, so much of this starts with knowing our cycle. And that’s a great place to start when you’re talking to your daughter. We are very open about these subjects in our home. I want my girls to be aware, to ask questions and to say something when something doesn’t seem right with their bodies.
Change the Cycle
Knowledge is power, and women have the power to be their own best health advocates if equipped with the right information. It’s time we start educating ourselves and our daughters about the importance of getting to know our bodies and about things like heavy periods, fibroids and pelvic health. I encourage you to check out changethecycle.com, an online community where women who suffer from uterine and pelvic health conditions can find resources that promote a better understanding of their condition and potential solutions.
Advocating for your health starts with knowing your body – and that means knowing what’s considered normal vs. abnormal when it comes to your menstrual cycle. And while we are all born with one, how much do we really know about our uterus? The uterus plays a critical role in menstrual and reproductive health, but we are not always informed about potential issues or abnormalities we should be looking out for. There are a number of conditions that can affect a woman’s uterine health, like abnormal uterine bleeding (AUB) or uterine fibroids that can cause pain, heavy bleeding and fertility issues. While common, these conditions are often not discussed, and women wait years to seek medical attention as result.
Medical Statistics You Might Not Know
- Fibroids are noncancerous tissue growths in the uterus.1
- Up to 80% of women will experience fibroids by the age of 50.2
- Fibroid symptoms include: Heavy bleeding, periods lasting more than a week, frequent urination, pelvic pressure or pain, difficulty emptying bladder, constipation, and backaches or leg pains.1
About Abnormal Uterine Bleeding:
- 1 in 5 women suffer from heavy periods that dramatically affect their health, confidence and quality of life.3
- Women who experience heavy periods are not alone, in fact, 10 million women experience abnormally heavy bleeding.3
- On average, women with abnormal uterine bleeding experience their period for 14 days a month4
- Women with abnormal uterine bleeding miss 1.5 days of work/school every cycle = that’s 18 days a year on average.4
*Compensation was provided by Hologic via Momtrends. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions of Hologic or Momtrends.
Uterine fibroids: Overview. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/uterine-fibroids/home/ovc-20212509. Accessed April 25, 2017.
Uterine Fibroid Fact Sheet. Office of Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/uterine-fibroids. Accessed April 27, 2017.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heavy menstrual bleeding. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/blooddisorders/ women/menorrhagia.html. Accessed April 07, 2017
Hologic, Inc. Data on File; AUB Patient Journey Research, conducted January 2017. Survey of 1,003 women who self-identified as currently or recently experiencing heavy bleeding with need to change feminine hygiene product every hour or more.