Former glamour model Alicia Douvall has revealed she suffered a debilitating, crippling womb condition that left her exhausted, depressed and robbed her of her sex life.
The TV personality has spoken out about her five-year battle with endometriosis which caused her periods to become so heavy and painful she woke up one day ‘in a pool of blood’.
After an operation brought no relief, the 38-year-old was devastated to be told her only option was a hysterectomy – which would force her into an early menopause.
In a desperate bid to avoid this, Alicia, from London, sought out natural therapies and says a combination of acupuncture, diet and Chinese herbs have virtually ‘cured’ her of her symptoms.
The mother-of-two, who was also found to have fibroids and an ovarian cyst, said: ‘My periods used to be fairly regular but then they started going haywire – they went really heavy and I was bleeding in between periods.
‘Then one day I woke up in a pool of blood. It was absolutely terrifying. You expect the worst and I spent a lot of time worrying that I had cancer. I suffered for three years before I was diagnosed with endometriosis. I was exhausted all the time and sex was extremely painful.’
Endometriosis – where lining of the womb is found elsewhere outside the uterus – can also lead to infertility, fatigue and bowel and bladder problems. It has been described as a ‘silent epidemic’, given that it affects up to one in ten women.
‘I couldn’t go on the way I was’
Alicia’s problems began in around 2009 and she spent the following few years having a barrage of tests and seeing different specialists.
‘I went on the NHS at first but I just kept getting fobbed off and wasn’t getting a firm diagnosis so then I went private,’ she said.
Alicia is not alone in her struggle. On average it takes 7.5 years from the onset of symptoms to get a diagnosis, according to Endometriosis UK.
After it was finally confirmed, doctors firstly tried putting her on the Pill in a bid to ease her symptoms but it had no effect.
And painkillers such as ibuprofen did little to subside the pain.
‘My medicine cabinet made me look like a junkie,’ said Alicia. ‘But nothing worked and I knew I couldn’t go on the way I was.’
So Alicia then had an operation to cut away patches of endometriosis tissue and also had her fibroids and cyst removed.
Thankfully, the condition hadn’t destroyed her fertility then and a month after the surgery she fell pregnant with her second child, Papaya Coco, who is now five.
‘After the operation my symptoms got so much better and I thought I was cured,’ she said. ‘But around two to three years later they flared up again and the excruciating pain in my abdomen area came back. I was devastated. It was really disrupting my life and getting me down.’
After waking up in a pool of heavy bleeding she was told her next move should be a hysterectomy, in order to cause her hormones to plummet since oestrogen encourages endometriosis tissue to grow.
However, she was warned this could cause symptoms such as hot flushes, depression, vaginal dryness, insomnia and night sweats.
‘I thought no way, I’m too young to go through the menopause and it made me look into alternative therapies,’ said Alicia.