At the age of 32, Lena Dunham is going through the early stages of menopause. In a new interview with The Cut, the actress and Girls creator opens up about her years of debilitating health issues, endometriosis diagnosis, and undergoing an elective total hysterectomy.
According to the World Endometriosis Society, one in 10 women of reproductive age worldwide are affected by endometriosis, a painful occurrence of the uterine lining growing outside of the uterus that creates tissue thickening around other organs causing this tissue to behave like womb lining, thickening, breaking down, and bleeding during each menstrual cycle—with no way of escaping the body. The often debilitating health issue is most common among women in their thirties and forties, and can make pregnancy difficult. Padma Lakshmi, Monica, Tia Mowry-Hardrict, and Halsey are some of the celebrities who have opened up about their painful struggle with the health problem.
Dunham was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2014 after realizing years of "intensely painful periods were something more serious." In the following years, she went through a series of surgeries related to ovarian cysts and legions; passed out at the MET Gala after surgery complications; suffered from nerve damage; and was also diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a disorder that causes muscle pain and weakness.
By November 2017, Dunham decided to remove her uterus and fallopian tubes—despite not having the time to freeze her eggs—as a way to end the physical pain caused by endometriosis, even though her doctors advised otherwise.
“I was in too much pain to wait,” Dunham said about the decision. “It’s really amazing, in points of extreme distress, how things you thought were non-negotiable start to become negotiable. I thought I would do anything to have a kid naturally. Turned out that wasn’t true.”
After undergoing the hysterectomy, Dunham found out that her uterus was in bad shape, calling it a moment of "vindication" for going against the advice of her medical team. “My surgeon was like, ‘You have the most misshapen and diseased uterus I’ve seen in my entire career,'” Dunham shared.
The Golden Globe winner shared that though she's content with her decision to undergo the life-changing procedure, she still has a hard time looking at friends on social media who are pregnant or have newborns.
“It’s always like a little catch in the throat when I think about it. It’s all those things like new-baby smell and breastfeeding, and looking at a baby that you know looks like you,” she said. “When I just figured out you could mute Instagram stories, it was such a fucking blessing.”