Updated: Jul 5, 2019
My menstrual cycle started when I was 9yrs old, I was 11yrs old when I thought my uterus didn’t like me, every month body attacked me and over time it got worse. I was 19 when I started researching diseases of the reproductive system I originally thought I had uterine cancer it freaked me out, but then I came across a disease called Endometriosis that really sounded like me. At 21 after having a chocolate cyst removed from my ovary I was officially diagnosed with Endometriosis.
For years I’ve done research on Endo I’ve been on so many message boards even just in my own family and it seemed as though there were only White women who had Endo, but this wasn’t true. As the years have gone by I have seen more Black women speaking up about Endo, but what I also recognized is that women of color may often not be diagnosed with the disease because of the lack of knowledge and health care. I guess I was right because research mentions that “endometriosis has been known for over a century, the disease has been erroneously perceived to affect women of higher social status, probably because these women have more resources to seek continuous medical care” (Kyama, Mwenda, Machoki et al, 2007).
What this means is that for those of us women of color we have to be the voice for our communities and speaking up about our reproductive health. I can speak for the Black community and say we have a horrible tradition of not speaking about things, especially our physical and mental health. Endo is said to be hereditary not necessarily from mom but could from a relative. What this means is when family doesn’t talk you have generations that don’t know what to tell a doctor, they don’t know what to look for and this could delay diagnosis. In a research study to show the “prevalence of endometriosis in African women it was discovered that endometriosis appeared in 43 adolescent African-American women aged 18-19 years presenting with pain or abnormal vaginal bleeding was 65%, including mild (50%), moderate (39%) or sever (11%) endometriosis” (Kyama, Mwenda, Machoki et al, 2007).
It’s 2018 and I know a lot has changed since this study, but unfortunately research is limited when it comes to endo and Black Women. What I do know is Endo awareness is making for noise, there are commercials which is great, but us Endo warriors have our work cut out for us. As a Black Caribbean - American Woman I believe it is very important for me to speak up about my battle with Endo and now my battle with Surgically Induced Menopause. I make it a point to discuss with my cousin their menstrual pain and how important it is to inform their doctors that they do have a family history of endo, everything that I’ve been through is something I don’t want repeated which is why I created Millennial In Menopause as a platform to talk about endo and other reproductive health issues and the struggle of being young in menopause. We have to be the change, we can’t allow the next generation to live in ignorance to their reproductive health, girls have to know that if it doesn’t feel “normal”, if something is off with her body that she should speak up about it and not be embarrassed.
Time for change:
Education/Family History - Learn about reproductive health issues. Ask about family history share the information.
Healthcare - Healthcare has been an issue in low income and minority communities for years, it is the reason people don't go to the doctor this is one reason why diagnosis of Endo in delayed. This is why it is important for us to vote about healthcare reform, it is important to get the thought of "I'm young, she's young nothing is wrong" out of our heads.
Your Voice Matter - Don't let people doctors included tell you that you are blowing your pain out of proportion. Mother's (guardians) listen to your daughters pay attention to her symptoms, write them down each month. If one doctor won't listen on to the next until you find the one. Do your own research.
Let’s Talk about our Periods and Menopause
Kyama, Mwenda, Machoki et al. Endometriosis in African women. Women’s Health (Lond). 2007 Sep;3(5):629-35. doi: 10.2217/17455057.3.5.629.