Gabrielle Union is known for keeping it all the way real. So it’s no surprise the 45-year-old star is helping to move the conversation about fertility, and her recent adenomyosis diagnosis, into the mainstream as well.
During a chat Wednesday at this year’s BlogHer conference in New York City, she said a recent diagnosis could have been at the root cause of her infertility issues, and her struggle to conceive since marrying her husband, NBA star Dwyane Wade, all along.
“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,” she said.
“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,’” she explained.
According to the Mayo Clinic, adenomyosis “occurs when the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows into the muscular wall of the uterus. The displaced tissue continues to act normally — thickening, breaking down and bleeding — during each menstrual cycle.” Some effects of adenomyosis include an enlarged uterus, and extremely heavy and painful periods.
It isn’t the first time Union opened up about her struggle to conceive. The Being Mary Jane actor revealed she’d suffered multiple miscarriages and her experience with In Vitro Fertilization on Dr. Oz last month.
“For three years, my body has been a prisoner of trying to get pregnant,” she said. “I’ve either been about to go into an IVF cycle, in the middle of an IVF cycle or coming out of an IVF cycle.”
Though Union said Wednesday at BlogHer that her symptoms were clear, doctors brushed aside her concerns when she was younger and failed to give her the proper treatment she needed. “Every doctor I saw was like let me put you on birth control,” she said, before issuing a warning to the women in the room.
“Note: if you are on birth control for anything other than birth control, to address or treat any sort of period issue you are not actually treating or addressing a period or reproductive issue. You are masking it,” she said. “The pill can mask all kinds of things. It is amazing at preventing pregnancy; not so great with addressing adenomyosis.”
Union’s experience with infertility is not unique, but many women, particularly Black women, do not feel comfortable talking about their struggles because of the shame and embarrassment that’s often attached. Or as Union explained, “Judgment renders so many of us immobile.”
Thankfully, by helping to normalize the conversation on fertility Union is giving many women the license to do the same. After all, as she told the crowd, “Just know if you are out there having fertility issues — you are not alone.”