When it comes to health, things sometimes work a little differently for women and men. One especially painful reproductive health concern that affects 1 in 10 American women in the United States is endometriosis. This disorder occurs when tissues similar to the kind found in the uterus grows outside of the womb, causing symptoms like pelvic pain, cramping, excessive bleeding, and infertility.
Actress, producer, and entrepreneur Tia Mowry first began experiencing the tell-tale pelvic pain as a teenager, but it wasn’t until 2006 that she was finally diagnosed with the disorder. Mowry recalled that getting that diagnosis was a real challenge. She had to see multiple doctors before she finally got an explanation for her excruciating discomfort.
“I didn’t just stop at one doctor. I was in and out of emergency rooms. I saw maybe three or four different doctors and a family practitioner. I was advised to go to a specialist and that’s when I was able to get a proper diagnosis. Sometimes, when you go to a family doctor, they don’t know the specifics within a certain area or issue. My family practitioner didn’t even mention endometriosis,” Mowry explained.
Mowry noted that her story wasn’t an anomaly. She shared that she had friends who’d faced similar struggles with having their health concerns acknowledged, including one with breast cancer and another with leukemia. Both of those women thankfully got diagnoses and treatment after advocating for themselves. It’s these experiences that have pushed Mowry to encourage women to trust their bodies when they feel that something is wrong.
Dr. Gina Charles, a board-certified family physician and women’s health advocate, agrees. “If you don't understand something, speak up and ask as many questions as you need to understand the full scope of your condition. Be relentless in your pursuit of finding the answers and solutions to ailments. Get that second opinion. Bring a close friend or a family member to your doctor’s appointments. This shows your healthcare provider that you have a great support system, and this might also deter your concerns from being easily dismissed. Being an advocate for your health may result in better outcomes.”
It's a sentiment that Marline Francois, Psychotherapist and Author echoes, acknowledging that for Black women who face structural racism in healthcare, self-advocacy and a good support system are especially important. “In addition to seeking a second opinion, it is okay to reach out to other Black women for emotional support. There are some disparities in the healthcare field when treating Black women which can affect their health outcomes and impact their stressors, so it is crucial to have a mental health professional who is culturally responsive during this time,” Francois advised.
For Mowry, getting diagnosed was just step one on a long journey towards managing her health, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. In the years after she was first diagnosed with endometriosis, Mowry said she struggled to make sense of why it had happened to her. That struggle increased with her first pregnancy, which she described as terrifying and painful. Pregnancy can be difficult and complicated for women with endometriosis. But since she began speaking out about her experience with endometriosis, she’s found meaning.
“There was a Dr. Oz interview where a woman shared her story and said that if it weren’t for me, she wouldn’t know that she had endometriosis. And I just started crying. Because I felt like I’m doing a lot to help other women. It’s become more purposeful. There’s meaning behind it,” Mowry said.
Mowry has written two books that have shared some of her experiences with endometriosis. In 2012, she published, Oh Baby, offering advice and stories for new moms and moms-to-be, and in 2017, she released Whole New You, a cookbook that shares how swapping out inflammatory foods for healthy greens, high-quality proteins, and supplements has changed her life.
It was the diet change that inspired Mowry’s latest venture, Anser. Anser is a line of high-quality dietary supplements made with ingredients that are easily absorbed by the body. Mowry has intentionally kept the cost low – about $30 for a 60-day supply – to make Anser accessible to as many women as possible. The line includes a women’s multivitamin, a prenatal formula, a beauty formula that promotes healthy hair, nails, and skin, and children’s gummy multivitamins.
“I wanted to encourage women to take charge and control of their health…So, my goal was to provide affordable supplements that would be available to everyone, and I definitely wanted to make sure I was communicating to the consumers that didn’t feel recognized or acknowledged in this space,” Mowry explained.
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