- Every month we are met with our period and while we all dread that time, some women couple the monthly discomfort with endometriosis. This health condition causes the tissue, that makes up the lining of the uterus, to appear on other parts of a woman’s body including: “the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the bowels, and the bladder.” According to BlackDoctor.org, in some cases of endometriosis they have even found the tissue inside the vagina, on the inside of the bladder, on skin, on the lungs, spine and even the brain.
For women who experience the effects from this condition, it can be extremely painful and for some it can cause fertility complications down the road. Black Health Matters says some of the the most common symptoms include: “very painful menstrual cramps, chronic pain in the lower back and pelvis, pain during or after sex, Intestinal pain, painful bowel movements or painful urination during menstrual periods, spotting or bleeding between menstrual periods, fatigue, and diarrhea, constipation, bloating, or nausea, especially during menstrual periods.”
Women between their 30s and 40s are the median of women seen with this condition, but any woman who menstruates could be affected. While endometriosis affects over 176 million women in the U.S., studies regarding Black women and their relation to the health condition is very scarce. And within the community itself, there seems to be very few voices who speak up and share experience, but Tia Mowry wants to change that.
The actress and Quick Fix YouTuber opened up in an essay for Women’s Health Mag about her life with endometriosis. In her mid-twenties, Mowry was diagnosed after years of being told by doctors the pelvic pain she was experiencing was normal.
Each one would brush me off. ‘Those are just really bad cramps, some women get them more severely,’ one told me. ‘Just put heat on it,’ one suggested. Another doctor simply said: ‘Get on the treadmill—working out helps.’ Deep down, though, I always knew what I was feeling was more severe than just cramps. No one should ever have cramps so bad that they're ready to call an ambulance. I once found myself crying in the back of my car, and my sister Tamera had to drive me home because I was in too much pain to drive.”
Mowry recalls skipping classes in college because the pain was so bad she needed relief and she was just sit on toilet to help her muscles relax. In her late-twenties, she finally connected with a doctor, “an incredible African American doctor,” who knew exactly what she had and told her Black women are often misdiagnosed because there is less information done on endometritis in the Black community.
In addition to learning what has been happening to her all these years and finally being able to figure out a solution, Mowry’s doctor also brought to her attention having children may be a challenge.
That was a shock that sent me into a bit of a depression. I had found the man of my dreams, and we were talking about our future, and all of a sudden I learned I could have trouble having kids one day.”
Naturally her next question was how to rid herself of the condition and her doctor explained while there is not cure for endometriosis, you can manage it.
She warned that inflammatory foods could make my symptoms worse, but to be honest with you, I didn't really change my eating habits at that point. I was in my 20s, so I just kept eating whatever the hell I wanted. I ended up needing to have multiple surgeries because my symptoms got so bad. I will never forget sitting in my doctor's office and her telling me: ‘Look, if you want to have kids one day, and you don't want to keep having surgeries, you're gonna have to change your diet.’ And that's really when I took everything to the next level. I started following a diet that limited foods like dairy, added sugar, and alcohol and focused instead on healthy choices, such as probiotics, legumes, and lower-sugar fruits.”
After having the surgeries, still experiencing pain and determination to want to have a baby, Mowry switched up her eating habits and abided by her doctor’s order. Although she was getting herself on the right path, she admits she felt alone because she did not know anyone who dealt with this and women in her family never spoke about having problems getting pregnant.
A year after making the decision to be a healthier version of herself, Mowry found out she was pregnant with her son, Cree, while working on the TV show The Game.
I gave birth to my son, Cree, who's now 7, in 2011. After he was born, I thought I was in the clear; I didn't have any more endometriosis symptoms for about five years. And then, in my late 30s, when we were trying for another kid, my pelvic pain returned. That brought with it more doctor's visits and paying special attention to what I ate, plus yet another surgery. But finally, earlier this year—at age 39—I gave birth to my second child, my daughter, Cairo.”
Among all the challenges she faced, Mowry says she never had a problem telling the people in her life about her experience. As soon as she was diagnosed, she made she to tell her twin sister, Tamera Mowry, just in case it was affect her too; but thankfully it did not. Mowry’s concern for being open in the public is what scared her.
The harder thing for me, to be honest, was sharing my condition with the public. For some reason, as a ‘celebrity,’ people always think your life is perfect. I wondered if I would get backlash if I spoke about it, or if people would bully me, or say I was making up this condition as an excuse. I know it sounds silly, but it's difficult to be publicly vulnerable. But then I remembered how, even though I had an amazing support system, I often felt like something was wrong with me. I thought I was alone because no one I knew personally had dealt with this. And then I realized: I'd never really seen someone African American in the public eye talking about endometriosis or their struggles with infertility. And when you don't know or see anyone else who looks like you talking about what you're going through, you feel alone and suffer in silence.”
PHOTO: BCK Online
So what did Mowry decide to do? She decided to speak out about her truth and she released a cookbook, Whole New You, that includes recipes she used to to decrease inflammation.
I decided to put it all out there because I wanted to help people feel less alone—and supported. I also want to raise awareness. As Black women, we're particularly at risk for endometriosis, yet so many of us don't even know what this condition is. If more of us talked about it, more women might say: ‘Hey, I've had those symptoms, let me go get checked.’”
Being a champion of endometriosis and having given birth to her two miracles, Mowry knows she is blessed but is also aware that some women with the condition and other fertility struggles may not have the same story to share. This is why she wants more of us to be open and talk about healthy living/conditions we may face. Often times, people feel like they are they only one going through something but that may not be the case.
If I could say anything to the Tia who was in a dark, lonely place, struggling to get pregnant, I would tell her don't give up. And remember: Do not feel alone, because you are not.”
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