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It took Mowry five years to find out what was behind her debilitating symptoms.

By Renee Cherry
March 24, 2021
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It's Endometriosis Awareness Month, and many people are taking the opportunity to draw attention to the common condition, which occurs when tissue that's similar to that of the uterine lining grows elsewhere. Tia Mowry has joined in on the conversation, sharing details about her experience with endometriosis.

Tia-Mowry-Endometriosis-GettyImages-1204480191
Credit: Getty Images

Yesterday, Mowry detailed her entire endometriosis story in an Instagram Live discussion with Mama Glow, a holistic maternity education organization. She revealed that, before her diagnosis, she spend her early twenties dealing with excruciating pain during her period. Still in college at the time, she would sometimes have to leave class to sit on the toilet to relax the muscles around her uterus because she was in so much pain, she said. She would bleed through super absorbent tampons in the matter of an hour and also dealt with symptoms like migraines and eczema, she said.

Throughout the rest of the IG Live, Mowry recounted her path toward getting diagnosed — which ended up taking five years — and how she eventually found relief. When the actress first started seeing doctors about her painful symptoms, they just told her she was experienced regular cramps and suggested things like taking a bath or exercising, she said. (Unfortunately, this type of dismissal is a common thread in many women's endometriosis diagnosis stories. Studies report that it often takes women 8-10 years to get a diagnosis from the onset of their symptoms, and doctors often chalk up symptoms to the normal effects of having a period.) This took a toll on her mental health, recalled Mowry. "I was devastated," she said. "I was depressed. I felt alone. I felt crazy. Because I was like, 'well, something must be wrong with me, if these doctors are out here not taking my symptoms seriously, just bypassing my frustrations and my concerns and my symptoms.'"

Five years after she started having symptoms, things took a turn for the better; Mowry visited a new doctor who finally diagnosed her with endometriosis. Now that she finally knew what she was up against, Mowry had two surgeries three years apart to remove scar tissue.

Still, that's not the end of the story. "After that surgery, [my doctor] said, 'Tia, if you want to have children, and if you no longer want to continue to have surgeries, you are going to have to change your lifestyle," Mowry said during the Instagram Live. At her doctor's advice, Mowry changed her diet to promote gut health and started incorporating yoga and meditation into her routine to lower stress. She was able to have two kids and has had success at keeping her symptoms at bay, she said. "I have been, I will say, in remission for 10-something years after realizing what I needed to do," she said.

Looking back, Mowry believes that finding a female Black doctor who understood her was crucial. "The doctor who diagnosed me, she's a Harvard graduate and she's a Black woman," she said. "She understood where I was coming from. She understands, you know, my culture."

And Mowry doesn't think that her experience of struggling to get a diagnosis is unusual, especially among Black women. "I've heard way too many stories, especially from women who are my dear friends, who are Black," she said, giving the example of one who "basically had to beg to get a proper diagnosis for breast cancer." When it comes to endometriosis in particular, research shows that Black women are in fact less likely to be diagnosed with the disorder than their white counterparts — and not because they're less likely to have it. This disparity likely results from social factors such as implicit bias and institutional racism, Nyia Noel, M.D., assistant professor of medicine in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Boston University School of Medicine, previously told Shape.

Since receiving an endometriosis diagnosis can prove challenging, and especially for Black women, stories like Mowry's are relevant during Endometriosis Awareness Month and beyond.

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This story originally appeared on shape.com