The actor and creator of the hit show Girls on HBO has been struggling with this disease and its many complications for years. In an essay written for the March 2018 issue of Vogue, she reveals that she recently underwent a total hysterectomy—a surgery that removed her uterus and cervix, leaving her infertile at age 31.
Endometriosis is a condition in which the tissue (called the endometrium) that normally lines the uterus grows in other parts of the body like the ovaries, intestinal lining, and fallopian tubes. Why does this cause problems? Well, when your period comes every month, these rogue tissues also bleed, causing an extreme amount of pain and inflammation, leading to further complications like adhesions and infertility. Symptoms of endometriosis include debilitating pelvic pain, painful sex, lower-back aches, fatigue, and digestive issues like constipation and bloating. In other words: It can completely turn your life upside down.
Like for many women, Dunham's journey with endometriosis has been a long one. Throughout the years, she's been very vocal about her many surgeries (in the double digits) and hospitalizations (three in less than a year). Last April, she underwent a surgery to free her ovaries from her rectal wall and thought the pain was behind her, but just a couple of months later, it sadly returned in full force, leading her to the decision to get a hysterectomy.
The choice to get this surgery isn't an easy decision for any woman to make, but after years of doctor visits, surgeries, and hospitalizations—and trying alternative remedies like pelvic floor therapy, massage, acupuncture, and yoga—she says she was ready to take her life back. "I may have felt choiceless before, but I know I have choices now," she wrote. She still plans to have a family and says she will approach options like adoption "with all my might."
Thanks, Lena, for being open about your struggle and helping to shine the spotlight on a debilitating condition that affects one out of 10 women of reproductive age—a condition that has flown under the radar for far too long.