Picture: Murtaza Saifee
I know it’s difficult to explain what MRKH is- and the full name doesn’t really help with that.
The first important thing to note: MRKH, or in its full glory, Mayer Rokitansky Küster Hauser, is a syndrome and not a disease. It is a genetic disorder that runs through families and can affect girls and women from every other generation. Even if you feel lonely, from a global perspective, the syndrome is fairly frequent; it affects approximately 1 in 4,500 females.
What is MRKH syndrome?
You might have read one or the other article with the sensational headline “girl born without vagina”. I’d like to use the opportunity here to tell these journalists to do their research more thoroughly…. MRKH is much more complex than that!
The most common type (type 1) causes indeed the uterus and the vagina to be underdeveloped or absent. This is, however, mostly invisible from the outside and therefore it may go unnoticed until the girl hits puberty.
Instead, the syndrome affects the internal development of the female reproductive system. That is to say, the vaginal opening may be narrower than usual and/ or the uterus is underdeveloped or absent. Yet, the ovaries are often intact.
If you think back to biology class, you might remember that ovaries are also responsible for the production of female hormones, including oestrogen and progesterone. As soon as we enter puberty, these hormones trigger the growth of pubic hair and breasts. So, since MRKH patients have working ovaries, their bodies develop like those of other girls’- except for one thing.
What are the symptoms of MRKH?
And that one thing is your period. Yes, that’s right. MRKH patients do not get their period- ever. No uterus, no period. Sounds great? Well, yes, I partially agree. But if you think about the organ causing your period, you also know that the uterus will eventually host a tiny egg, which will become an embryo. So no uterus, no period, no child is the complete equation here.
And this pretty much concludes the symptoms. Unless your body shows symptoms of type 2 MRKH, it is pretty difficult to tell from the outside whether you are a MRKH patient. Thus, the only real symptom is when you’re the only girl in your class or friends’ circle to miss out on the monthly red visit.
Now, if you suspect that you might be affected, you should go see your gynecologist. Further diagnosis through ultrasound or MRI will help determine whether you have MRKH or not.
If the news has been confirmed and you have MRKH syndrome, please don’t panic.
MRKH is not a lethal disease and believe me, your life will not be limited in any way.
You don’t even have to treat it, however, in some cases this might also restrict your sex life. That is to say, if you want to have sexual relations, it is often advisable to surgically deepen the vaginal opening.
There are plenty of methods to do this, and everyone should choose whatever they think is best for them.
Finally, MRKH does not mean that you have to remain childless. Many women opt for surrogacy or adoption. And thanks to the rapid medical progress, uterus transplantation has become a feasible treatment.
Make sure that you take care of your body and don’t discriminate it. Living a life with MRKH is not a curse, you can shape it into something creative and wonderful that may or may not work against the heteronormative grain. And that’s more than needed.