Advertisements

Category Archives: Women’s Health

MRKH and the vagina stigma

I came across this story today and it blew my mind. A girl in the UK, name Jacqui Beck,  spent 17 years of her life believing she was normal, only to find out that she didn’t have a vagina. If you’d like to read the original story, follow this link to the Daily Mail – online. The girl suffers from a fairly rare condition called MRKH or Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome. The syndrome is characteristic of a woman who is missing her womb, cervix and vaginal opening. Although it is classified as rare, according to the Daily Mail, a case presents once in approximately 5,000 women.

MRKH diagram via neovaginasurgeons.com

MRKH diagram via neovaginasurgeons.com

So, you may be wondering why this story blew my mind. Although it has been said that it is hard to diagnose, which I agree can cause issues, I find it upsetting that she didn’t find out until she was seventeen. The typical age of diagnosis is 15-18 years old, and often these women find out for the first time when they try to have intercourse. The only reason Jacqui found out about her condition was a statement to her doctor in passing that she hadn’t started her period yet. I wonder if there was more educational material available to girls, if they would be more aware of their bodies? I know that while I was embarrassed to sit in sex ed class, hearing about my body, I also craved more information. Perhaps if more time was spent educating girls about their bodies, it would encourage exploration without judgement. This exploration could have led to an earlier diagnosis. Also, I ponder if there may be a higher incidence of this syndrome than reported. The 1 in 5,000 women statistic is based on diagnosis in newborns.

I was very pleased, to stumble across a Facebook page in support of women who suffer from this condition. Although surgery is an option to remedy this problem in most women, the psychological scarring must still remain. Especially for those girls who find out while trying to have intercourse for the first time. In a society where we strive for normalcy, the last thing these women want to feel is different. I also want to commend the young girl on who the story was written for coming out in public about her issue. I hope that it will inspire other girls to learn more about their bodies.

I really, truly believe that we as a society are failing to educate girls about their bodies. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there are aspects of my female functions that I did not fully understand until I was thirty. Those functions are normal functions and they were not presented to me, so I can imagine how hard it would have been for Jacqui to even remotely think something was off having such a rare condition. If I am blessed to have a girl, I want her to understand how marvelous her body is. When she is old enough to understand, I want her to be taught about her cycles and the inner workings of her reproductive organs. Now, I’m not so deluded as to think I will be the teacher for all these things, but I will be open with her. I will answer any questions she has without judgement and if I don’t know the answers, I will find them out. When she is ready, I will book a visit with a gynecologist so that if there is something she is too embarrassed to ask her mom, she can ask them.

In closing, I’d like to relay a story posted in my personal feed on Facebook. Someone I know has a daughter in kindergarten. While doing some arts and crafts, her and her friends were putting string in their laps and laughing. During this play, her daughter used the word vagina in front of her peers. The teacher was there to hear her daughter utter the word and called dear mommy to discuss it. Now, it’s not like she used the word out of context, or a slang like va-jay-jay, pussy or my personal favourite, bajingo. Her daughter used the word in context and without a derogatory nature. Why such a big reaction to the correct use of the word? Because it was ‘vagina’. How crazy is it that there was such drama! I can see perhaps, from the teacher’s perspective, that the other children going home to households that sugar-coat female body parts may have repeated it and upset their parents. I still think it is ridiculous. Let’s try and remove this stigma about female genitalia and its function. Let’s start by using the proper words with our children, right from the beginning.

Advertisements

Women’s Health: Am I normal down there ?

I’ve talked a lot about overall health, in how it relates to systems that both sexes have. Now, I’d like to take some time and talk about us…the girls! It seems such a taboo subject to discuss, which I suppose makes it all the more important to get out there. I’d like to become more familiar with my body and its female bits. Over the next few posts, I’m hoping to educate myself and anyone who is interested in learning more about their bodies.

Why, at the age of thirty, do I suddenly have the need to know more about me and my bits? I recently got a bit of a shock. I thought I knew a lot about my body. While I may know slightly more than the average person, I do not know as much as I thought I did. Although my husband and I won’t be trying for a family for a little while, many of my friends and acquaintances are producing offspring like it’s going out of style. There are babies EVERYWHERE! This reproduction bonanza got me wondering about my own capabilities. At the suggestion of a friend, I bought the book “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” by Toni Weschler, MPH. Well…was I in for a surprise.

Turns out, I’m NORMAL.

You may laugh, but I actually cried. All these years, I thought there might be something a bit off. Why? Two words my female friends: cervical fluid. Ick, I know…ick. But so important to understand. I thought there was something off. You know, those days when you are extra slippery…or extra dry. It was always changing and I didn’t know why, or that it was completely normal.

So, what is cervical fluid?

Cervical fluid is the fluid that comes out of you are certain times in your cycle and can change consistency, as well as colour. I’m not referring to ‘discharge’, which sounds more like your vagina has a cold and hence those times you need a doctor to look you over. I’m speaking of the fluid that tells you that you are fertile. Basically, what seminal fluid is to men, cervical fluid is to women. Men are always fertile and ready to go, so their seminal fluid is always present. If you remember back to that awkward highschool, sex ed seminar, women go through cycles of fertility. Therefore, our fluid is present when we are at our most fertile.

Here is a chart that gives you an idea of a menstrual cycle, but involving your cervical fluid:

borrowed from plannedparenthood.org

borrowed from plannedparenthood.org

Cervical fluid can range from sticky, to creamy or slippery, which is also often described as eggwhite. A lot of women are self-diagnosing themselves when they get to this point in their cycle with a yeast infection or something of the like. Before you rush out to buy a Monistat kit, read on. When you have slippery cervical fluid present, that is often when you are at your most fertile. So if you are avoiding producing a mini-me and you aren’t on the pill, it is very important to either abstain or to use protection during this time. You see, we produce our cervical fluid to make the passage for the sperm easier. It serves to coat the way and make the pH more tolerable. If you have unprotected sex during this time in your cycle, it’s like giving the sperm the FastPass at Disney World so they can get to the end of the line faster. Unless you are planning for an addition to the family, watch out. It doesn’t guarantee your pregnancy, but it certainly ups the odds for it.

cervicalfluid

I hope that all the women who read this, already knew all about their fantastically normal cervical fluid…however, I do doubt that. My secondary hope then, is that you’ve just learned about it and realized, ‘Hey, I’m NORMAL!!’ I highly recommend that you continue your education about your ‘nether region’ by reading “Taking Charge of Your Fertility”. Whether you are like me, on a quest for knowledge, avoiding the baby bump for now, or actively trying to start a family. It is incredibly full of knowledge that really, should have been taught to us while we were in highschool. We might have been totally grossed out, but we would have at least been grossed out and informed.

Just to get an idea, I’d love it if you could participate in a poll on the subject. All anonymous of course 🙂