Let’s get awkward for a second, y’all – I’m about to COMPLETELY overshare, and I’m in no way ashamed about it. We’re going to talk about an uncomfortable, yet rarely discussed, medical condition that affects 1 in 5 women. I’m writing this because 20% of women will have to handle living with one at some point, and as we all come from women or know them – it helps having a deeper understanding.
So yeah, spoiler alert: IT’S ABOUT THE FEMALE ANATOMY
Five years ago, I was diagnosed with a Bartholin’s Cyst. Yesterday, I finally had surgery to have it drained. If you don’t know what a BC is – I sincerely hope you NEVER have to find out. For those that have had them, lived with them and removed them: I have the UTMOST respect for you.
So, what IS a Bartholin’s Cyst?
On either side of the labia sit two glands – the Bartholin’s Glands. What do they do? They lubricate! Sometimes, women get a fluid build up behind the gland, causing a cyst – complete with swelling, discomfort, pressure in the area and pain. At the most basic level, it’s painful to sit, drive, walk, be intimate, wear tight clothing or exercise.
How do you fix a BC?
Start with what you can personally live with. The gland itself is about the size of a pea; originally, I was still dealing a cyst the size of a walnut, and felt uncomfortable wearing shorts and swimsuits. I decided to live with it, because my first doctor told me I would have to have surgery to remove the ENTIRE gland, and I felt that was too extreme of an action. Fast forward to this week, and now I’m sitting on a plum, or as I have been fondly referring to it: my one ball.
Homeopathic remedies include the following, but I’ve found very little literature verifying any of the methods are truly effective (except the last one):
- Sitz Baths (or regular baths!) – fill the tub up just a few inches to cover your pelvis, and add Epsom salt. If you’re pre surgery, adding essential oils can be lovely – like Lavender and Rose. If you’re post surgery, make sure you use unfragranced materials.
- Tea Tree Oil
- Witch Hazel
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Music from Marvin Gaye + Al Green
What happens when you can’t live with it?
It depends on how invasive of a procedure you’re willing to go through, and how bad the area is. All procedures are same day, out patient.
Surgical drainage: after making a small cut in the cyst, your doctor inserts a small rubber tube (catheter) into the opening to allow it to drain. It can stay in place for up to 6 weeks. This can be done in your OB’s office and takes less than 20 minutes.
Marsupialization: (TOTALLY A FUN WORD…) If drainage isn’t effective, or the cyst is infected – the doctor cuts the cyst to open it, then stitches the skin around the cyst to form a small pouch. This can take 30 minutes, and needs to be in an OR.
Removal of the entire gland: For extreme, or continually recurring cases – this is the only option; and was the original option I was given 5 years ago. Must be done in the OR, and takes around an hour.
I had the simplest procedure, done in the office of my OB – and thank you to Swedish Health in Seattle for making me feel so comfortable and strong enough to see it through; my husband and MIL for taking care of me and reminding me to sit down and heal; and the support groups I’ve found on Facebook with strong, badass women.
Even though I was in physical discomfort with the recovery:
I’m wearing leggings again, and not just dresses and skirts!
I can sit without discomfort of any type
I cannot WAIT for the scar to heal, because I finally feel confident rocking my bikini bottoms
Day 1: I was able to sit soundly on my sit bone; which is monumental considering how much discomfort a simple act was causing. I no longer have to pitch my legs to one side, or sit on a pillow, or sit on the floor to maintain my comfort levels – it’s amazing how little things can be taken so for granted.
Day 2: I could move around easier – though the Word catheter did pinch a bit and cause some slight itching and irritation around the scar, it was so much easier to deal with than having the cyst. I did my best to stay rested, but admittedly – have a hard time sitting still.
Today, Day 3 – I woke up and found my catheter had already been pushed out; there’s no physical discomfort left and I feel better than I have in years.
I’m writing this because there is a stigma about discussing any of this; HELL, I’m even a bit uncomfortable writing it. I simply hope at least 1 person is thinking: OH MY GOODNESS, I’M NOT ALONE; because – you’re not, and you, too, can get through this.
If you have any tips or tricks on living with a BC, or want to lend your story to other women – feel free to leave a comment below; to my female tribe just remember – together, we can get through anything!