What you need to know:
- A patient at the Aga Khan University Hospital (Akuh) in Nairobi, she is hopeful that, this time round, the doctors here will present her with a lasting solution to the excruciating pain she has been living with since the age of 14.
- The make-up artist two weeks ago told Nation that she wanted her uterus removed due to her struggle with endless pain after she was in 2019 diagnosed with endometriosis at a health facility in Thika.
- This is a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside of it.
Ms Valerie Wangithi, 23, is a woman full of mixed emotions.
A patient at the Aga Khan University Hospital (Akuh) in Nairobi, she is hopeful that, this time round, the doctors here will present her with a lasting solution to the excruciating pain she has been living with since the age of 14.
The make-up artist two weeks ago told Nation that she wanted her uterus removed due to her struggle with endless pain after she was in 2019 diagnosed with endometriosis at a health facility in Thika. This is a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside of it.
“I have had enough of heavy and irregular periods and the unbearable cramps, bloating, constipation and nausea,” she said.
After Nation highlighted her predicament, Akuh reached out and offered to run tests and treat her for free. She’s now here to see Dr Charles Muteshi, a consultant obstetrician gynaecologist and fertility specialist at Akuh.
“Sometimes back, I went to Marie Stopes in Thika and they told me I may have endometriosis,” Ms Wanguthi tells Dr Muteshi.
“There are some tests we do to try and understand what could be happening and it’s a combination of blood tests and ultrasound and perhaps a scan.”
“But, in my experience, the commonest reason is polycystic ovary syndrome [PCOS], which is a problem with hormones that happens during the reproductive years,” the doctor explains, adding that PCOS causes skin changes like hair growth and irregular periods. Nation accompanies Ms Wangithi to the doctor two weeks after the tests are done. The doctor says she has PCOS.
“Ovaries receive signals from the brain to tell them to produce eggs every month and, if those signals are well aligned with what happens in the ovary, every month you will drop an egg but if those signals don’t align very well then it means you are not releasing an egg every month, this means you don’t ovulate regularly,” Dr Muteshi explains, noting that this is a common issue.
“Generally, one in three girls has polycystic ovaries but only one in ten girls will have PCOS.”
He cites weight as one of the factors that make symptoms pronounced. Dr Mutakha Godfrey, a consultant obstetrician gynaecologist based in Eldoret, agrees with Dr Muteshi and further points out that most, but not all, people with PCOS are overweight or have obesity.
“PCOS happens when the ovaries produce too much testosterone. Testosterone is called a male hormone, but all people have some testosterone. Normally the ovaries produce very small amounts, but in PCOS, they make more,” he says while adding that other symptoms of PCOS include getting fewer than eight periods a year, growing thick, dark hair on the upper lip, chin, sideburn area, chest, or belly, acne (oily skin and pimples on their face), hair loss from the head and trouble getting pregnant without medical help. According to Dr Muteshi, other chemicals in Ms Wangithi’s body that are causing painful and irregular periods.
“I know your periods have been so distressing that you feel you don’t need the womb. Removing the womb alone is not the solution to polycystic ovaries, and the clots during periods mean that you bleed a little bit heavier than the body is designed to handle,” Dr Muteshi says.
“We can give you something called Hemsamic 500 mg which contains Tranexamic Acid that can reduce excessive bleeding. Alternatively, we have a coil called mirena, which, when you put it in the womb makes the period flow much more manageable.”
Ms Wangithi is silent for a few minutes then says: “I am okay with that.”
“Your coil will not make you ovulate, if you lose your weight your periods will be regular, we will remove the coil when you want to get pregnant,” Dr Muteshi goes on to say.