WHEN Lynda Ritchie was just 16, she found out she’d been born without a womb.
The teenager hadn’t started her period yet, and following a series of internal examinations and ultrasounds, it was revealed that her uterus, cervix and the top of her vagina had not developed.
Lynda, who is now 33 and lives in Ballymun, Ireland was diagnosed with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome in 2001, a disorder in which a woman's reproductive organs are absent or underdeveloped.
The condition affects one in 4,500 women.
Because the condition does not affect external genitalia, it’s often only diagnosed following gynaecological investigations when young women have not menstruated by the time they reach their late teens.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Lynda said: "When the doctors sat my mam and me down and told us that I didn't have a womb I was just numb."
For Lynda, the diagnosis meant saying goodbye to her ideal future as a mum of three kids - a dream she’d had since she was 12-years-old.
Lynda’s vagina was also found to be shorter than average, as a result of the top organ being underdeveloped.
To help with this, Lynda had to use a dilator each night for almost a year following her diagnosis, but she became so self-conscious she didn’t have sex again until she was 18.
Lynda said: “I was afraid they would notice. I thought to myself, 'Who would want to be with me, I'm broken'.”
Lynda became depressed and was referred to a grief counsellor, but she continued to find the experience incredibly isolating.
She explained: "When I was diagnosed, there was no Facebook, there was no way to connect with other people with this condition.
“I felt so alone.”
Then, in 2014, Lynda read about a successful uterus transplant that had enabled a woman with MRKH give birth to her own child in Sweden.
Lynda applied to take part in a similar research trial taking place in Britain, but unfortunately she was not selected.
Since then, in November 2017, her hopes lifted again when a child was born at Baylor University Medical Centre in Dallas, Texas, as a result of the hospital's ongoing uterus transplant clinical trial.
Another child has since been born to an MRKH sufferer in Dallas who underwent a uterus transplant.
Lynda doesn't believe uterus transplants will be available to Irish women while she is young enough to be a suitable candidate, however she says the advances in medicine are offering hope to women with her condition.
Today, Lynda belongs to a Facebook support group for MRKH sufferers.
And, after years of unresolve, Lynda says she’s made peace with the fact that she will never be able to give birth to her own child.
What’s more, the 33-year-old has found love with her partner Kenneth Kerrigan, 39, whom she met two years ago.
She said: "I met my boyfriend online.
“When we were chatting, he told me early on that he had a disability; he had cerebral palsy, and right then I told him that I kind of did too.
“It as such a relief to get that out of the way so early in a relationship.
“It turned out that he never wanted children.”
After 15 years of struggling to come to terms with her condition, Lynda says she’s in a good place.
"I don't know what changed in me, but I began to realise that I could have a very fulfilling life without kids.”
What is Mayer-Rokitansky- Küster-Hauser?
- MRKH is a reproductive condition
- Women affected are born with an underdeveloped or absent uterus, cervix and vagina
- Women with MRKH are born with normal external genitals and ovaries
- Approximately one in 4,500 newborns are born with MRKH
- The condition is often diagnosed when women don't get their period by the time they are in their late teens
- Medical advances in the area of uterus transplants are offering hope to sufferers of MRKH
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