Recently popular actress Tinopona Katsande evoked a myriad of sad emotions among her followers on Facebook when she revealed a painful period in her life whereby, she could not have children due to endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a disorder characterised by tissue which is similar to that which lines the uterus but which grows outside the uterine cavity. The lining of the uterus is called the endometrium.
This disorder is a common gynaecological condition that affects up to 10 percent of women across the globe. The endometrial tissue may also grow on a woman’s ovaries, bowel or the lining of her pelvis.
According to research endometrial tissue growing outside of the uterus is known as an endometrial implant. The hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle affect the misplaced endometrial tissue causing the area to become inflamed and painful. This means the tissue will grow, thicken and break down. Over time, the tissue that has broken down has nowhere to go and becomes trapped in the pelvis. This tissue trapped in the pelvis can cause irritation, scar formation, adhesions where tissue binds pelvic organs together, causing severe pain during periods, excessive bleeding and fertility problems.
For Katsande (42), her condition was so severe that at first it interfered with her getting children, but then she later on managed to conceive.
“I’m a mother of two boys. I have a gynaecological condition called endometriosis. I struggled to get pregnant. I was dumped because of failing to get pregnant because people thought I was barren,” said Katsande.
“But God had mercy on me and I birthed my first son at 37, and second at 40. But the endometriosis pain is still there. To date you see me moving about wearing a smiley face, pushing but what you don’t see or know is this face struggles with this chronic incapacitating pain almost every day of my life. It affects my weight, my mental health and my emotional well being. Endometriosis sufferers are often silent sufferers. These are not issues we openly talk about in our Shona /African culture so getting help or an effective support system is very difficult for many a Zimbabwean endometriosis sufferers,” she added.
A lot of women seemed to relate with Katsande’s story, because they began pouring out heartfelt stories of how they also suffer from the disease.
Monet Maison Kamanzi said: “Story of my life but I was diagnosed with the condition at the age of 19 now I’m 27. People are quick to judge not knowing the real cause of your problem. I’m tired of being called names like barren and sometimes labelled as a wife of a goblin when I try to reach out to people so that I can get spiritual help or remedies because specialists have failed. The first thing you get is being judged, and they tend to ask if I have never slept with a married man. It’s so heartbreaking,” said Kamanzi.
She added: “People see us with smiles every day but deep inside our hearts we are crying and bleeding. Every time I see my period I’m like God it’s that story again because my mood changes. This condition makes my periods last longer than normal. I always have fear of being on my menses for weeks. At times I end up wearing pampers due to heavy bleeding and I have to look behind every time because when I’m around people I will be scared they might be seeing that I’m wearing a pamper, and I will also be afraid of spoiling my pants at work. Another painful thing is that endometriosis comes with unbearable cramps.”
Katsande urged parents who have daughters who suffer from endometriosis to seek help early.
“If you have a girl child who experiences excessive pain towards, during and even in between periods, please stop the ignorance. Seek professional help. Get a correct diagnosis and get a suitable pain management programme. To be a woman should not mean to feel pain,” she said.
Perhaps what is most dire about endometriosis is that it might cause infertility thus leaving women feeling useless due to being stigmatised by society.
According to a January 2020 research article titled ‘The causes of infertility in women’ by Mugove G. Madziyire, Thulani L. Magwali, Vasco Chikwasha and Tinovimba Mhlanga which was presented to gynaecology clinics in Harare, about one in five of 216 recruited infertile women had irregular menstrual cycles caused by endometriosis.
With so many women’s fertility being affected by the condition a lot needs to be done to raise awareness and ensure women get the necessary help.
A report by Cimas Medical Aid indicates that endometriosis has no cure but its symptoms can be managed. The condition, if left untreated, can disrupt one’s life, so finding quick relief from pain and other symptoms is crucial.
“Medical and surgical options are available to help reduce symptoms and manage any potential complications. Your doctor may start off with conservative treatment. If this fails, the doctor may recommend surgery,” read the report.
The spokesperson for traditional healers, Mbubhiyana Ngwenya said: “Women should not be stigmatised by men who tell them they are barren because of endometriosis. What they should do is to seek help from traditional healers who will give them herbs to drink and in some instances they can mix the herbs with porridge.”