I have learned so much about women’s health, my health, in the last few years. There are so many questions I never asked. There are so many things I didn’t even know I didn’t know. There are so my thoughts I never had. And no one ever bothered to tell me.
A few years back, I had a cyst on my liver and a cyst on my ovary. It started with severe lower back pain, and then a low-grade fever. My doctor sent me to get a sonogram (not fun), hence finding cysts. Then they went away. No big deal. I was fine. But after 2 or so months, my doctor insisted I get another sonogram to ensure they were gone. So I did, even though I really dislike getting sonograms.
The tech unofficially confirmed that the cysts were gone and everything looked ok. Then she made a comment, almost under her breath, as she was writing notes: “oh, you have a retroverted uterus.”
I have a what? Is that a nice way of saying my girl parts are old?
MedlinePlus.gov says: Retroversion of the uterus occurs when a woman’s uterus (womb) tilts backward rather than forward. it is commonly called a “tipped uterus.”
A “normal” uterus tips forward just a bit, toward the belly. A retroverted uterus tips backwards to some degree. It can be caused by adhesions, endometriosis, fibroids, pregnancy, or a woman can be born like that. It can cause a whole range of symptoms and discomforts and problems, or none at all. And, apparently, 25-30% of women have a retroverted uterus.
I’m one of them.
But I didn’t know it until someone casually said something in my mid 30s. No doctor ever told me. No ob/gyn thought it might be something I’d like to know. I didn’t even know alternate uterine positions even existed until that moment. And it’s my body.
Of the potential symptoms, I have many. But I’ve had them for as long as I can remember, and they are just “ways of life” that I’ve gotten used to, so is it an issue, or not? Will it be an issue? Would I ever have known? Would that information had come in handy at some point in my past in some doctor’s office for some seemingly unrelated issue?
Once I found out that one of my organs is not exactly where it should be, I started thinking about what else I didn’t know. What else had no one bothered to fill me in on about my own body? Well, turns out, there’s a lot.
My mom wasn’t very explanatory about the goings on in a woman’s body. When I got my first period in 7th grade, she handed me a box of those gigantic, pillow-looking pads, and said, “use this.” I did have the health class at some point, you know, the one where they separate the boys and girls and try to scare you into not having sex ever. And my dad gave me a very robotic and vague “birds and bees” talk at some point. But there was never conversation about my body, or hormones, or what the heck was actually going on.
Even the doctors, the gynos, just kind of did their annual check up thing. They’d ask if I had any issues. As far as I knew, I didn’t. (But when you don’t know what’s normal, or even what is actually going on inside your own body, how can you know if there are any issues?) End of appointment.
Maybe it is just me, just how I grew up. But I’m not so sure. Either way, I’m learning now. And making sure my daughter doesn’t grow up not knowing about her body.
Some of the things I’ve learned about recently that I never thought to wonder before (and no one bothered to bring up to me):
- what a menstrual cycle actually is…like what is actually going on
- that there is no actual opening in the ovary…the egg literally breaks out of there each month!
- that hormones regulate everything. And when they are messed with, there is a whole lot of badness that can happen.
- that when you’re on hormonal birth control, you don’t actually ovulate
- that ovarian cysts are a normal thing, and don’t generally cause any problem
- what oxytocin is, what it does, where it comes from, and why it’s important
- that all people, men and women, have a certain level of progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. It’s all a carefully balanced orchestra when healthy, but if thrown out of whack, can cause all sorts of heath issues and can take months to years to get back on track.
- the difference between hormone replacement and actual self-made hormones
- oh, and that uteruses don’t all sit the same way
Good health starts with good understanding, at least in my mind. I have to know how things generally should be to know if something is out of sorts. I need to know what’s going on, or should be going on, to know where to look when something isn’t right. I need to know all the parts and pieces and their functions in order to narrow down how to approach a problem when it arises. I need to be my own specialist, because everyone is different. I assumed someone would tell me what I needed to know and then I could ask questions. Turns out, that’s backwards…like my uterus. 🙂