In Gabrielle Union's 2017 memoir, she wrote about how she's had "eight or nine" miscarriages throughout her life and also likened her body to a "prisoner" of trying to get pregnant. But last week, Union, 45, shared that a diagnosis of adenomyosis not long ago may be the reason behind her infertility issues over the years.
“Toward the end of my fertility journey, I finally got some answers," Union said at the annual BlogHer conference on August 8, as reported by People.
"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 explained. “The gag is I had it in my early 20s."
Union also noted how almost all of the doctors she visited disregarded her symptoms and only put her on birth control as a treatment. “Instead of diagnosing me, they were like, 'Oh you have periods that last nine or 10 days and you’re bleeding through overnight pads, perhaps there’s something more there,'” she explained. "Every doctor I saw was like, 'Let me put you on birth control.' The pill can mask all kinds of things. It is amazing at preventing pregnancy; not so great with addressing adenomyosis.”
As SELF wrote previously, adenomyosis is a condition closely related to endometriosis that causes severe period symptoms.
“Adenomyosis happens when that endometrial tissue travels from inside the uterus and grows into the muscle of it,” Kristyn Brandi, an ob/gyn with expertise in heavy vaginal bleeding management from Boston University/Boston Medical Center, told SELF previously. It can cause symptoms including painful menstrual periods, pelvic pain, bleeding between periods, infertility issues (as evidenced by Union), and pain when urinating or having bowel movements.
Unfortunately, there's no cure-all treatment when it comes to adenomyosis. In general, doctors recommend managing the symptoms with over-the-counter pain medication (such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or hormonal birth control, which can help manage symptoms like heavy bleeding and pain associated with your period, the Mayo Clinic explains.
However, these treatments don't work for everyone. In severe cases, your doctor might recommend a hysterectomy to remove the uterus (but the ovaries don't need to be removed). But finding the best treatment plan for you starts with a proper diagnosis.