I wrote an article about endometriosis recently. It was hard to write without getting super angry. IT’S SUCH AN IMPORTANT PROBLEM THAT AFFECTS MILLIONS OF WOMEN, BUT WE HAVE NO CURE OR IDEA HOW IT HAPPENS.
Well, guess what? There are more diseases like endometriosis.
Let me tell you about the other reproductive-related diseases women suffer through. (YES THERE ARE MORE, DOESN’T THE WORLD MAKE YOU MAD????).
😊Ok, 😊deep 😊breaths 😊everyone 😊you’re 😊about😊 to 😊get 😊very 😊angry😊 (← me trying to be calm while thinking about writing this next section🤬).
Alrighty, how else are billions of women suffering??
Uteruses create life but they can be extremely annoying (and painful)
Uterine leiomyomas (aka Fibroids)
This is when the muscular tissue under the endometrium in a woman’s uterus turns abnormal and tears off; creating a non-cancerous tumor.
Phew! Not cancerous… but don’t be too relieved.
No, fibroids are not cancer. But they’re literally a pain in the uterus.
They’re fluid-filled sacs all up in your business causing discomfort, anemia, back pain, uncontrolled bowel movements, menorrhagia (if a pad or tampon is soaked through every hour) pelvic pain and pressure.
By far, the biggest complaint of fibroids is the heavy periods (menorrhagia). Think menstruation 10x. For those of you not female:
Imagine having to use 24 pads per day?? 1 in 20 women can relate. Now imagine you lived in Afghanistan where 1 pad is $4. That’s $96 /day if you had menorrhagia. Because period products are damn expensive, sixty-two percent of Afghani schoolgirls report using strips of torn clothing. This leads to all kinds of infection.
Oh, and fibroids impact 25% of women at any given time. 80% of women will get fibroids at some point in their life. Fortunately, when fibroids are small, they don’t have symptoms, so many women have them but don’t notice.
Unfortunately, painful or not painful; big or small, any type of fibroid increase the likelihood of prematurity, miscarriage, and infertility if you’re trying to #reproduce.
Most of the time, they’re left undiagnosed. Sometimes during you once-every-like-5-years pelvic test your doctors will accidentally discover them, so that’s a bonus!
We have no idea how they’re formed or how to prevent them.
Some NOT re-assuring quotes about fibroids 🤨:
“Your doctor may discover fibroids incidentally during a pelvic exam or prenatal ultrasound. Your options thereafter include a hypersectomy or Myomectomy or clogging the blood supply of the fibroids.”
“Although researchers continue to study the causes of fibroid tumors, little scientific evidence is available on how to prevent them.”
[Just for terminology sake: a hysterectomy is the removal of the entire uterus (therefore causing infertility). A Myomectomy is just the removal of the fibroids without removing the uterus. A myomectomy preserves fertility (for the most part) but the fibroids will come back.]
Fact: fibroids are the #1 cause of hysterectomy.
The options for treating fibroids are:
- Remove fibroids for life, but lose the ability to reproduce
- Remove fibroids temporarily, have some fertility
- Clog the blood supply of fibroids, so they stop growing, preserve the most fertility.
Wow. Why can’t we keep fertility and remove all fibroids?? We just don’t understand enough about the disease.
How are fibroids caused?
we’re about to get science-y 😛
Now, this science community is grossly behind research the uterus. There are no real answers to how most reproductive conditions occur.
Fibroids are tumors that form in the myometrium, which is the middle layer of the uterus. Unlike the endometrium, this layer does not shed during the monthly menstruation.
We think that fibroids are caused due to an increase in growth factors in the bloodstream. Several studies link an increase of estrogen and estrogen receptors.
More estrogen levels in the myometrium cause a higher expression of certain factors like tissue growth. Fibroid growth is also influenced by progesterone because it stimulates leiomyoma cell growth and survival through upregulating B-cell lymphoma- (Bcl-)2 protein expression.
B-cell stuff probably sounds like bogus, but, the main thing to note is that abnormal hormone levels (progesterone, estrogen) cause an increase in tumor growth in the myometrium.
As this happens, the uterus becomes swelled up and dangerous.
The uterus isn’t pretty either.
Just so you get an idea of the size of these suckers:
“Estrogen and progesterone are recognized as promoters of tumor growth, and the potential role of environmental estrogens has only recently been explored. Growth factors with mitogenic activity, such as transforming growth factor-3, basic fibroblast growth factor, epidermal growth factor, and insulin-like growth factor-I, are elevated in fibroids and may be the effectors of estrogen and progesterone promotion.” — This study [if this sounds too science-y, don’t read the study. But if you’re interested in getting mad at the uterus, read!!]
Fibroids are a PROBLEM.
warning: we *might* (HINT HINT HINT) be solving these problems… the solution is at the end of this article :)
TL;DR: Fibroids are chronic cancer-free tumors as a result of abnormal growth factors and hormones in the body; that cause complications within the female body, involving health and pregnancy.
Pelvic Inflammatory disease
This is amongst one of the top 5 gynecological diseases experienced by women.
think about the sting you feel when you put lemon juice on a paper cut. Now imagine that pain multiplied by 1000 — let’s call them supercuts. NOW imagine the entire lower half of your body has billions of these painful “supercuts”. That’s kind of what pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) feels like.
It affects 5% of women in the US. It’s an infection of reproductive organs that often causes problems getting pregnant later on, typically caused by STIs
Normally, PID causes fallopian tubes to swell; which can be painful, but it also results in tubal factor infertility (TFI). TFI is experienced by ~30% of infertile women.
Basically, since the fallopian tube isn’t properly shaped, the eggs find it harder to be fertilized, and when they are fertilized, the pregnancy will be ectopic; fatal for the mom and baby.
Most women can’t stand the pain of PID so they go to the doctor, but the doc can’t actually help with the damage done inside the body, she’ll give you tons of painkillers though 😇.
“Antibiotics will treat PID, but they will not fix any permanent damage done to your internal organs. The cure is unknown.” — women’s health
The tubes become inflamed through a complicated interaction with
Studies have been done clinically testing different drugs to relieve the damage. But, we don’t actually have a cure.
But hey! This is the only disease that we have some clue about how it’s caused: bacteria!
Essentially, when foreign bacteria enter the cervix, they irritate organs, causing them to inflate like balloons.
“Failure to seek treatment within 3 days of the onset of lower abdominal pain can result in a threefold increase in the risk of PID and infertility.21 Early diagnosis is thus essential” — PID epidemiology.
When women get an STI like chlamydia or gonorrhea, the sooner they treat it, the better.
One of the main problems with PID is it’s often treated too late.
TL;DR: PID is an inflammation of reproductive organs because of bacteria 🦠. It needs to be treated asap, otherwise, it can lead to serious complications. Oh, and by “treat” we mean overdose on different treatments because there’s no greatly effective method right now.
Women with “treated” PID still have many complications. They’re 6 times more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy, 14 x more likely to become tubularly infertile (egg can’t make it to the uterus to interact with spermy) and 10x more likely to develop endometriosis or need a hysterectomy.
Enough inflammation, let’s move on.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a hormone imbalance that causes irregular periods, and it’s linked with obesity. Your body becomes insulin resistant and that resistance causes the ovaries to produce more androgen (male hormone) which then results in difficulty ovulating.
If you want to get fancy this is called hyperandrogenism. (hyper = more, androgen = androgen, ism = system; system with more androgen)
Your ovaries swell up and get filled with large cysts (fluid-filled sacs).
Oh, would you look at that!! Yet another condition that we have no idea how to diagnose, treat or how it forms!
“There’s no test to definitively diagnose PCOS. Your doctor is likely to start with a discussion of your medical history, including your menstrual periods and weight changes. A physical exam will include checking for signs of excess hair growth, insulin resistance, and acne.”
PCOS affects 7% of women. There is no known cause of why it happens, but insulin resistance and hormone level monitoring is thought to be important in maintaining the disease. But, we have no effective way to monitor these levels. The drugs given for POCS patients(and basically every single gynecological disease ) are normally prescribed by guessing and checking:
Doctor: How was 50 mg per day?
You: I don’t know. I feel basically the same. But I’m not a doctor so I can’t say for sure.
Doctor: Ok how about we increase it to 60 mg?
You: Why are you looking at me Doc I have no clue?
Doctor: Ok, I’ll step up your prescription tell me how it feels in a month.
Oh, and if you want to stay fertile, you’re going to need to compromise on the treatment 🤔. Some drugs we use to attempt to treat PCOS compromise fertility, so women have to be pretty careful. There’s no cure for this disease, but something that seems to have an important impact is diet/lifestyle. Losing weight tends to help the condition. But this isn’t a good enough solution.
PCOS causes infertility, increased cardiovascular disease, gestational diabetes, miscarriage, increased prematurity in children, metabolic syndrome, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, low-grade inflammation (lack of white blood cells) and increased risks of cancer.
Basically, it’s a whole bunch of scary side effects, caused by maybe hormones, and impacts millions of women worldwide.
These are 3 more of the MANY reproductive diseases experienced by way too many women. Just to startle you a little more, I’m going to give you the TL;DR of more conditions women (especially of reproductive ages) suffer through😡.
Ectopic Pregnancies 🤰
Ectopic pregnancies happen to 1 in 40 women. They’re extremely dangerous to both the fetus and the mother.
When a mother gets diagnosed with ectopic pregnancy the baby is terminated immediatly because it will have trouble developing and will likely cause the mom to bleed to death. In order to preserve fallopian tubes and fertility, to abort the baby, moms are often prescribed methotrexate: a drug that saves them but kills the baby.
The worst part is 40% of the ectopic diagnosed babies end up being normal. By the time we realize, it’s too late, the drug has started slowly killing them.
This mom was trying to have a baby for almost 3 years, when she finally got pregnant she was told it was ectopic. This news devasted her.
Soon after starting to terminate her baby, doctors realized the baby was actually normal. She kept with the pregnancy. However, her baby was exposed to methotrexate, which caused severe birth defects: the baby was born without her anus, rectum, uterus or any other reproductive organ.
Ectopic pregnancies are an overlooked problem: the way we detect them sucks. Women also don’t understand if they’re in a good position to reproduce: many women simply don’t have adequate uterus structure (because of diseases).
Dysmenorrhea is pain caused by menstruation, it impacts 20–95% of females: this study found a 52% prevalence, but it varies for any given month.
It is basically the mumble-jumble of your reproductive organs. There are different types of prolapse but prolapse affects 1 in 3 women and 11% of women will need surgery in their lifetime because of it. Giving birth also increases the chances of getting some sort of prolapse.
Uterus being silly and unconventional
20% of women have a retrograde (out-of-place) uterus. This causes extreme pelvic pain and increases miscarriage.
Sometimes your uterus won’t be out-of-place, it’ll be completely misformed. Uterine Anomalies impact 5% of women and are the result of 25% of miscarriages.
This one affects 1 in 4 women. It’s the excess growth of the endometrium called uterine polyps. They’re one of the leading causes of miscarriage and can become cancer. Treatments are similar to fibroids (they barely exist!)
Asherman’s Syndrome is an example of extensive scarring that damages the ability to reproduce. When any tissue in the uterus has a malfunction, it can be very dangerous to have children.
What are the common threads between these conditions?
- We have no clue what’s causing them to form
- Our treatments are often “guess and check”
- Most of the time, women who want to stay fertile have to compromise on their health.
Women are so keen to keep their fertility. But what does being pregnant actually do to your body? : read here.
- There are tons of reproductive-related diseases that we have no idea why/how they happen, or how they’re cured.
- Most of our treatment options are to remove the uterus, which makes women scared because they want the ability to reproduce.
- Women aren’t aware of their fertility abilities. Lots of them have complications but have no clue. They spend months and years trying to get pregnant. Knowing you uterus’s state/ability to make babies could open up fertility enhancing options, like spermbots.
This where Ammorra comes in.
Ammorra is looking to empower reproduction — actually reproduce reproduction in a few ways:
- Monitoring reproductive health in a variety of ways, one example is monitoring hormone levels in pregnant women and looking for abnormalities, to ensure the healthy development of the fetus, and ensure they’re personally healthy, using nanosensors. We want to increase fertility among couples, as well: using nanotechnology we’re creating sperm bots, to help sperm and eggs get along…
- Our long-term goal is to remove the need for natural fetal development processes with our re-invented wombs. So women can treat their illnesses, even if they mean infertility, still have the option to have biological children.
- And, we want to give everyone, no matter their age, sexuality, fertility, health, etc. the ability to reproduce with our advanced sperm and egg technologies.