Lena Dunham has been vocal about her decade-long struggle with endometriosis, and now it seems, she’s done suffering for good.
In an essay for Vogue, the 31-year-old explains that she underwent a full hysterectomy — removal of her cervix and uterus — to eradicate the condition.
Endometriosis occurs when the lining of the uterus — which women of reproductive age shed every month during menstruation — attaches itself to other organs, creating a painful, swollen lesion that bleeds and develops scar tissue and further complications as it grows. While it’s unclear what causes it, it affects roughly one in ten women in the US, possibly more, as the condition often goes undiagnosed.
Dunham has been hospitalized for it several times — most recently, after the Met Gala, despite being symptom-free for months — and undergone multiple surgeries. After trying everything from pelvic floor therapy to acupuncture to “vaginal massage from a stranger,” (umm, what), Dunham writes that the pain finally became unbearable and that removing her “defective” uterus was the only option left for her.
Reading her description of the condition and its excruciating side-effects, you can begin to understand why she sought such extreme measures:
In addition to endometrial disease, an odd humplike protrusion, and a septum running down the middle, I have had retrograde bleeding, a.k.a. my period running in reverse, so that my stomach is full of blood. My ovary has settled in on the muscles around the sacral nerves in my back that allow us to walk. Let’s please not even talk about my uterine lining. The only beautiful detail is that the organ—which is meant to be shaped like a lightbulb—was shaped like a heart.
She underwent the procedure a few months ago and writes that now she’s “healing like a champ.” While she is now technically infertile, she still has her ovaries — “which remain someplace inside me in that vast cavern of organs and scar tissue” — from which she could theoretically harvest eggs to use in IVF. If not, “adoption is a thrilling truth I’ll pursue with all my might.”
Get well soon, Lena.