How an Endometrial Ablation became the most significant preparation for my fellowship abroad.
Three weeks before I left for a Fulbright fellowship to the UK I was laying in bed recovering from surgery. After spending months preparing for my stay in Scotland, I was unaware that this procedure would become the most important event of my preparation. It took me about two years to decide to go forward with elective surgery and a fraction of that time to realize the profoundly positive results of having an endometrial ablation.
I had been on and off contraceptive pills since I was sixteen in order to alleviate the symptoms of Menometrorrhagia: the condition in which prolonged or excessive uterine bleeding occurs irregularly and more frequently than normal. At thirty five I had become so anemic that my primary care physician explained my lab results with “I’m surprised you’re able to stand up straight”. While birth control pills worked well to control the amount of bleeding, I endured debilitating migraines which were trauma-inducing in themselves. On the pill I knew that roughly ten out of thirty days of the month would be spent in severe pain and off the pill I was unable to live a normal lifestyle. After the birth of my two children, my bleeding only increased to the point that leaving the house for any length of time was anxiety-inducing, work was unbearable, and most recreational activities were impossible.
It is hard to explain to those who have not experienced menometrorrhagia what it is like. I'd always fear the judgement that I was just acting too sensitive to this common discomfort – that all woman manage just fine. I learned really late that my experience wasn't common and far from normal. Pursuing personal narratives of other women's experiences was challenging. Though, I admit, as soon as a blogger reserved an opening paragraph warning their male readers I took the writing less seriously. I wonder if stubbornness is another symptom.
I decided to go forward with an endometrial ablation after about two years of my ob/gyn suggesting it. It wasn’t an easy decision for me. Before ultimately opting to go that route, I tried many options including multiple birth control pills, complete diet change, herbs, and acupuncture. The procedure results in high risk pregnancies and requires careful consideration of family planning. With this in mind, and due to my higher risk of ovarian cancer, my surgery included a laparoscopic salpingectomy: the surgical removal of the fallopian tubes. This also provided sterilization which is often suggested when one opts for an ablation.
Before the surgery, my doctor performed a uterine biopsy along with an ultrasound to ensure the procedure would be beneficial and there were no unexpected issues. I was completely unprepared for the pain of the endometrial biopsy which was intense to say the least. Ask your doctor about pain medicine before this procedure. Apparently my biopsy required more time than generally expected and once over I had a bout of Vasovagal syncope, which is not uncommon for me. This is basically your body overreacting to trauma causing your blood pressure to drop (fainting for me). I sat in my car recovering for an hour before being able to drive home. The biopsy may have been the worst part of the entire experience.
The ablation itself was performed under general anesthesia as an outpatient surgery at my local hospital. The preparation and recovery were far quicker than the surgery itself, which lasted about forty minutes. I believe typical ablations are even quicker, however my doctor found a benign tumor which he successfully removed. Recovery was similar to a cesarian section, though the absence of those amazing hormones which give new mothers superpowers made it more burdensome. It was difficult to move or walk for a few days and I was quite sore for about two weeks, each day seeing some improvement. Coughing and laughing hurt quite a bit and doing any movement requiring the use of my abs was not pleasant. After three weeks, I was back to normal waiting to see how well the ablation worked. I am told that a small percentage of woman experience no positive change after the surgery and the fear that I was one of them was always in the back of my mind.
I was in Scotland when my first post-surgery period arrived. It was so relieving to find that I had such little bleeding and was able to carry on with the many responsibilities of my fellowship without the discomfort and anxiety that I had gotten so accustomed to. The ablation had no effect on any other part of my reproductive health.
With the absence of the menometrorrhagia-induced stress I was able to live in a way that I hadn’t for a very long time. I’ve gone through three cycles since then and the results continue to be positive. To say this procedure was life-changing would be an understatement. If you experience the same symptoms that led me to undergo the ablation I know I don’t have to paint a dramatic picture for you. You surely understand how alleviating these symptoms would be life-changing. My only regret is that I didn’t have this procedure sooner.
If you are in need of more information to help with your decision, please feel free to reach out to me.