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Gabrielle Union has spoken unabashedly about her fertility issues, including her attempts to conceive using IVF, the multiple miscarriages she’s had, and not giving up completely on having children with husband Dwyane Wade. During a conversation at the 2018 #BlogHer Conference this week, the 45-year-old revealed that she found out after years of trying and some terrible menstrual cycles, that she has a condition called adenomyosis that could be having an impact on her fertility.

“Towards the end of my fertility journey I finally got some answers, because everyone said ‘You’re a career woman, you’ve prioritized your career, you waited too long and now you’re just too old to have a kid — and that’s on you for wanting a career. The reality is I actually have adenomyosis,” she said according to Yahoo. “The gag is I had it in my early 20s, and instead of someone diagnosing me they were like ‘Oh you have periods that last 9 or 10 days and you’re bleeding through overnight pads? Not a mere inconvenience perhaps there’s something more there.'”

Adenomyosis is a condition where cells that are supposed to grow outward into a woman’s uterus find themselves growing inward into the muscle of the organ. These trapped cells can cause some intense cramps and severe bleeding during a menstrual cycle. And while it hasn’t been definitively found that the condition messes with one’s fertility, studies have shown there could be a possible connection.

Gabrielle is still figuring it all out for herself, but she knows for sure she doesn’t want the old, just-take-birth-control-and-you’ll-be-okay method to deal with it.

“Every doctor I saw was like let me put you on birth control. Right? The catch all. Note: if you are on birth control for anything other than birth control, to address or treat any sort of period issue you are not actually treating or addressing a period or reproductive issue. You are masking it,” she said. “The pill can mask all kinds of things. It is amazing at preventing pregnancy; not so great with addressing anonymous.”

There are other ways to deal with adenomyosis without relying solely on birth control. Find out about possible treatments and more with these five facts about the condition:

  • Even if adenomyosis sounds strange and unfamiliar, it’s a more common condition than you think. It’s been estimated that 1 out of 10 women have it. And while Gabrielle believes she has had it since she was in her 20s (that’s not out of the question because experts say it can affect women of all age groups), it’s most common in women in their 40s and 50s.
  • There’s not a clear cause for this condition, though it is often seen in women who have given birth to multiple children. A possible theory is that when the womb has gone through injury, there’s a chance that the re-growth of cells can end up happening inwards, as opposed to outwards. It’s also believed that it’s something that has to do with a woman’s hormones and genes. Overall, doctors say there are no ways to really prevent adenomyosis from developing.
  • Symptoms that women with this condition tend to deal with include some pretty irregular and uncomfortable periods that feature a lot of pain, a stronger blood flow, and pelvic discomfort preceding menstruation. Other less ordinary symptoms include painful bowel movements and pain during sex. Some women don’t even see symptoms (one third).
  • As previously mentioned, despite adenomyosis being very commonplace in women who’ve had a few children, studies done have shown women with the condition sometimes are more likely to have poor outcomes in attempts to conceive compared to those who don’t have it. Also, there is some evidence (but not a lot) showing that women who treated the condition could have positive outcomes if they struggled with IVF in the past.
  • Aside from birth control to help lessen symptoms, other options include anti-inflammatory medications to deal with pain, medicine that can be injected (for short periods of time) to induce a temporary form of menopause, and uterine artery embolization to stop blood supply to the area impacted by adenomyosis in order to reduce symptoms. If one wants to take a serious leap to be done with symptoms for good, a hysterectomy is always the definitive way to do that.

Per the usual, Gabrielle Union is out here shedding a light on things many of us either wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about or don’t know much about. We need more people like her, speaking open and honestly to let others know they’re not alone.

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