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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.

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