Tia Mowry Experienced Years of 'Debilitating Pain' Before Finally Getting Diagnosed with Endometriosis
Though Tia Mowry is now a mom of two, her road to parenthood wasn't an easy one — and she's not afraid to share that with the world in hopes of inspiring others to do the same and feel less alone.
In a recent interview with TODAY Parents, the 43-year-old actress opened up about experiencing years of "debilitating symptoms" before finally being diagnosed with endometriosis, at which point she was also struggling to conceive. Mowry's 20s were plagued by extreme period pain, migraines, and eczema, yet doctors wouldn't take her "seriously," leaving her to feel "lost and alone," according to the publication. Ultimately, a friend advised her to see a gynecological specialist, who diagnosed Mowry with endometriosis. "She's a Black woman from Harvard. Right away, she knew exactly what it was," shared Mowry. (Related: Why the U.S. Desperately Needs More Black Female Doctors)
ICYDK, endometriosis (aka endo) is a painful, chronic condition wherein tissue that's similar to the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) grows in other places of your body, most commonly on the ovaries, on the fallopian tubes, behind the uterus, or on the bowels or bladder, according to the Office on Women's Health. While endo is one of the most common reproductive health concerns in the U.S., getting diagnosed with the pelvic disorder can take anywhere from four to 11 years, according to an article published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. And the journey to finally feeling heard and getting answers can be even longer for Black women. In fact, research shows that, compared to their white counterparts, Black women are less likely to be diagnosed with the condition overall — and that's not because they're less likely to have it.
"When she told me that, I couldn't even pronounce the word," Mowry told TODAY Parents of being diagnosed with endometriosis. "It was something that wasn't talked about, but she told me how she knew [based on] my symptoms. I'm a Black woman, and I was in the age range. I was basically a textbook story." (See more: Why Is It So Hard for Black Women to Get Diagnosed with Endometriosis?)
In addition to experiencing telltale signs such as excruciating pain during her period and heavy menstrual bleeding — details Mowry shared earlier this year during a March 2021 Instagram Live — the actress was also struggling to conceive. Unfortunately, endo and infertility often go hand in hand. Case in point: Between 30 and 50 percent of women with endometriosis may experience infertility, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
"I never heard the word 'infertility' growing up. It just wasn't part of conversations with my family and friends," she told TODAY Parents. "We as women growing up, we are just like, 'Okay, I'm going to get married, I'm going to have kids.' You have your life planned out and it doesn't always work that way."
In 2011, Mowry welcomed her son, Cree, now 10, with husband Cory Hardrict. During this first pregnancy, however, the Sister, Sister alum experienced, in her words, "excruciating pain" — so much so that her doctors feared she might have an ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when a fertilized egg implants and grows outside the main cavity of the uterus, according to the Mayo Clinic. "When you have endometriosis, you're prone to having an ectopic pregnancy because of the scar tissue," explained Mowry. But she didn't let this experience or the infertility struggles she then faced in the years that followed keep her from trying to conceive a second child. And in 2018, Mowry gave birth to her daughter, Cairo, now 3. (Related: Tia Mowry Has an Empowering Message for New Moms Who Feel Pressured to 'Snap Back')
Fast forward to today, and the mom of two is all about "dismantling the traditional norms that we grow up with when it comes to having a family and starting a family," Mowry told TODAY Parents. "And sharing the challenges and triumphs that come with that. The more awareness and stories we share, the more people won't feel alone or discouraged or depressed."
"And the more we talk about our own stories, the more we get rid of the stigma that comes along with IVF, surrogacy, sperm, and egg donation," she continued. "There are amazing ways that families become families."
Mowry is also encouraging those struggling with health challenges to advocate for themselves and not let doctors downplay what they're going through. "You know your body more than anyone," she said. "You are the one living with what you're going through day in and day out. Don't let anyone tell you that something is not wrong with you."