Ashford’s mother calls for earlier diagnosis of gynecological conditions to improve mental health

An Ashford mother who had to resort to a hysterectomy to end a lifetime of pain is leading a call for earlier diagnosis of gynecological conditions to reduce the pressure it can have on mental health.

Amy McHattie was just 16 when she was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition that can cause irregular menstruation, subfertility, hair loss and weight gain.

Amy McHattie from Ashford
Amy McHattie from Ashford

But the pain continued, and it was not until years later that additional conditions were diagnosed, as she had previously been to blame for either PCOS, back pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and even her imagination.

It had a significant impact on Amy’s mental health and she was put on antidepressants to help her cope.

Eventually, she was diagnosed with endometriosis – where tissue grows outside the uterus and can lead to internal blood collection – and adenomyosis, where the uterine’s internal mucosa breaks through the muscle wall.

Now the 29-year-old is speaking out as new research shows that there is a link between deteriorating mental health and long delays in doctors identifying a problem correctly.

It was conducted by BMI Healthcare, part of the Circle Health Group, in collaboration with the national charity Wellbeing of Women.

‘My relationship meant I had to be in bed for several days at a time because of the pain or fatigue.’

Amy, a mother of four, said: “Women do not like to say no because nine times out of 10 we get comments like ‘oh, it’s just a menstrual period’, ‘it’s normal’, ‘painkillers and hot water’ bottle will make it better ‘.

“You’re starting to think you might actually be imagining it, and it’s such a horrible feeling.

“If it was something they could see, I think it would be something that could be dealt with much faster.

“I spent hours crying after getting that diagnosis because someone put a reason why I felt that way. It was not in my head, I did not find it, and it was just automatic relief.”

For endometriosis, which affects every tenth woman, the average waiting time for a diagnosis is between five and six years.

One in 10 women has endometriosis
One in 10 women has endometriosis

A total of 10,360 women responded to the Circle Health survey, of which 1,561 were from Kent.

About 40% of the women who responded from Kent said they felt embarrassed or ashamed about talking about their condition, and only 39% felt they could talk openly about it with friends and family.

About 63% have also been diagnosed with depression and 63% with anxiety alongside their gynecological condition.

Elias Kovoor, a consulting gynecologist and laparoscopic surgeon, said: “Young women – more than older women – often felt rejected in the early stages of their diagnosis, despite guidelines to avoid delays.

“It is important not to miss the severe cases of endometriosis because of its long-term impact on health and fertility.

‘I wish I had someone who spoke to me like this that I could have dealt with and maybe put pressure on before.’

“With increasing attention among ordinary gynecologists, patients are now more easily referred to specialized endometriosis centers.

“Delayed diagnosis will have a huge impact on the results. There is now a well-known path for such referrals.”

Amy said the decision to have a hysterectomy, including the removal of her tube and an ovary, was the last resort, and followed years of contraception to regulate her hormones and an attempt to induce a chemical menopause.

She added: “I was so lucky to still be able to have my children while living with these relationships because so many can not, but I could not be the mother my children needed.

“My relationship meant I had to be in bed for several days at a time because of the pain or fatigue.

“It’s affected my career – I started studying paramedics but had to quit because I could not concentrate.

“I wish I had someone who spoke to me like this that I could have dealt with and maybe put pressure on before.”

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