Dr. Ryan Martin, who sees patients in Shady Grove Fertility’s Warrington, PA office, was recently interviewed by TODAY Health about adenomyosis, the condition behind Gabrielle Union’s fertility problems.
What is Adenomyosis?
Adenomyosis is a thickening of the uterus. Union describes it on social media, “endometriosis of the muscle.” It occurs when endometrial tissues move into the walls of the uterus.
“Many people are familiar with endometriosis but not adenomyosis,” Dr. Ryan Martin told TODAY Health. “It’s similar in the fact that it’s endometrial tissue in the wrong place. In this instance, it’s endometrial tissue in the walls where the muscle is. That causes the uterus to be bigger and not function the way it normally would.”
The uterine abnormalities caused by adenomyosis can lead to fertility problems.
“It doesn’t eliminate the chance of getting pregnant, it just makes it harder,” Martin said. “It makes the uterus less receptive to accepting an embryo to grow in pregnancy. You can take perfectly normal embryos and put them in a uterus that has abnormalities and have a much lower success rate as a result.”
“The problem with adenomyosis is that we can’t fix it,” Martin added. “There’s no way to just take out the adenomyosis. The only real treatment is a hysterectomy, so obviously if you’re trying to get pregnant, that’s a devastating thing to talk about.”
How Common is Adenomyosis?
“It’s not all that unusual,” Martin said. “Most of the time, one does not need a gestational carrier, but in some situations, that could be a viable option.”
Continuous birth control pills can help lessen the pain by stopping a woman’s monthly menses.
“You don’t have to have periods to be healthy,” Martin said. “You can sort of hit the pause button on the growth, but being on birth control pills wouldn’t help you get pregnant.”
After Years of Infertility, Gabrielle Union Welcomes First Child
In an interview with Oprah, Gabrielle Union, who recently welcomed her first child with Dwayne Wade via gestational carrier, said she learned she had adenomyosis only after “seeing the world’s leading IVF doctors for a number of years.”
Over the summer, Union opened up about her adenomyosis diagnosis, “Towards the end of my fertility journey I finally got some answers, because everyone said, ‘You’re a career woman, you’ve prioritized your career, you waited too long and now you’re just too old to have a kid — and that’s on you for wanting a career. The reality is I actually have adenomyosis. The gag is I had it in my early 20s, and instead of someone diagnosing me they were like ‘Oh you have periods that last 9 or 10 days and you’re bleeding through overnight pads? Not a mere inconvenience perhaps there’s something more there.’”
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Every family is unique. How each family is created and comes together is special. Kaavia James Union Wade’s journey into our arms was long and at times brutal. There were heartbreaks that nearly broke us and streams of tears that turned into raging rivers. And then came Kaavia James. This is our birth journey. Thank you all for the love, support and understanding and all the people who held us up when we lost hope. Watch it with love. Watch it with hope. (Full video on my IGTV)
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The star has also been vocal about her journey to parenthood on social media, often posting about her experience and speaking up about the “guilt and shame” women unfairly face when it comes to not being able to give birth.
“Every path to motherhood looks different,” she said in a recent video. “There’s no one right way.”