Michelle De, 37, from London describes how her battle with endometriosis and infertility led her to create her own brand of sanitary towels, as a way of turning her living nightmare into hope for other women.
My symptoms first started at the age of 15. At the time, my own mother hardly believed the pain I was suffering. She thought I was trying to skive from school. As the months went on, and the pain grew increasingly worse, so did my mother’s concerns. She took me to the doctor numerous times only to be told that my symptoms were very normal for a teenage girl. My mother explained that during each monthly cycle, I couldn’t get out of bed for 4 days. My periods were unbelievably heavy, and I suffered from chronic pelvic pain. I was occasionally offered scans which revealed I had cysts on my ovaries. My GP then told me that this would go away on its own – there was no need for any action.
I’ve lived on codeine most of my life to relieve the symptoms of my pain. I was put on the contraceptive injection which stopped my periods completely for three years. This was amazing – I was pain free like a normal teenage girl. Eventually, I decided that it wasn’t normal not to have period for such a long time, so I came off the contraceptive injection. To my horror, the very next month I was in chronic pain.
I sometimes found myself withdrawing from social events. It’s a fact that people get tired of listening to someone complaining of ill health constantly. It can be very straining on relationships with friends and family.
I was finding it very difficult to get pregnant. Time was ticking by, and so was my biological clock. My partner and I underwent 6 rounds of IUI and three rounds of IVF, all which were unsuccessful. These procedures did not work as I had blocked fallopian tubes. If I had been given a laparoscopy operation, there’s a chance they could have been successful. I have never and will never overcome the pain of knowing I will always be childless.
Finally, after years of suffering and never-ending doctor’s appointments, I had my first laparoscopy operation in 2014. The surgery revealed I had two blocked, kinked and twisted fallopian tubes. I was diagnosed with endometriosis and severe adhesions had travelled to my liver.
Since then, I have had a second laparoscopy, as the pain is just too unbearable. I am now due for a third laparoscopy.
I have suffered from a laundry list of painful symptoms: chronic pelvic pain, dizziness, frequent urination, painful bowel movement, severe ovulation pain, liver pain and depression. Because of my endometriosis, I have a very low oestrogen levels for a woman of my age. This chemical imbalance is associated with depression, anxiety and mood swings. Endometriosis is a cruel, traumatising disease that stole my dreams of becoming a mother.
One day I was researching the ingredients in sanitary towels and I wondered about what it would take to create my own brand of sanitary towels. One night in bed, inspiration struck. Most companies sell sanitary towel sizes separately, and I would end up spending a lot of money buying several different sizes each cycle. I decided to create a brand that sells day and night sanitary towels in one box and call it “All Stages”.
I have always loved bamboo and thought it would be a perfect ingredient for my product. Bamboo is eco-friendly and grows phenomenally fast, but it is also highly absorbent, breathable and antibacterial.
All Stages sanitary towels are Tree Free, made of 100% Bamboo Core. Not only are All Stages sanitary towels comfortably soft and give great protection, but they’re also eco-friendly, giving women a sense of happiness. I am still in the early stages with my business, and right now I am working on getting in orders and finding investors.
If I can raise awareness of endometriosis symptoms while helping the environment, then all my suffering will not have been for nothing.