A woman who was born with two vaginas, two wombs and two uteruses has spoken out about living with the extremely rare condition.
Elizabeth Amoaa, originally from Ghana but now living in Walsall, Birmingham, was diagnosed with uterus didelphys in 2015 after spending years in pain without having any idea what was wrong.
From the age of 10, the 35-year-old had been in and out of hospital with stomach pain but doctors had repeatedly dismissed her condition.
It was only when she turned 31 did she finally get the answer she had spent years seeking.
From that moment, Elizabeth underwent a total of seven surgeries in the space of just two years as well as suffering a missed miscarriage which almost killed her.
She is now speaking out about her condition in the hope of raising awareness for other women in a similar situation.
Elizabeth, whose vagina is Y-shaped with two vaginal canals that leads to two uteruses and two wombs, tells Mirror Online: “My periods were always very heavy. I used to complain a lot about abdomen pain but when my mother took me to the hospital doctors just kept giving me iron supplements and multivitamins and just said I was anaemic or had a yeast infection.
“So I just believed that and continued taking my supplements.”
In 2003, Elizabeth moved to the UK from Ghana, where she got checked out under the NHS and was diagnosed with fibroids, which are non-cancerous growths in the wall of her uterus.
She was also given the devastating news that conceiving a child would be difficult so was advised to stop taking the pill.
The then 19-year-old said: “I was really shocked but at the same time I just dismissed it as I wasn’t ready to marry let alone have a baby. At the time, I was still at university so I didn’t take it seriously. I just wanted to focus on my career.”
During this time, her period symptoms got increasingly worse and the pain became unbearable. She suffered severe abdominal pain, would often collapse while out shopping and experience regular nose bleeds.
Throughout this, sex was also incredibly painful for her.
Elizabeth says: “Ever since I started being sexually active around 18, I always thought the pain was just psychological. That it was just me.
“I’d often find certain positions very painful but because I didn’t know why, I would just change the position so I wouldn’t be uncomfortable.”
In 2010, Elizabeth was thrilled when she defied all odds and fell pregnant with her daughter. But she was not prepared for the emotional rollercoaster that would follow.
“My pregnancy was not normal because I’d have a scan and doctors would say oh we can’t locate the child, then they would say the baby is fine, then they would say oh we can’t see the baby again”.
“No one knew I had a double womb at the time so it really was a tough time. Despite my daughter being born premature at 32 weeks, doctors still did not figure it out.”
A major hint of her condition was that Elizabeth continued to get periods throughout her pregnancy.
The 34-year-old, who previously worked for Lloyds bank before she was sacked because she was always off sick, says: “I would get admitted to hospital and they would say you haven’t had a miscarriage so where is the blood coming from? They then put it down to the fibroids which they said were growing with the child.
“They kept concentrating on the fibroids and saying I had a low immune system but they didn’t really investigate any further.”
It was only later that Elizabeth found out that her daughter had survived because she had been in the right womb rather than in the heavily infected left womb.
“This whole experience has been an emotional rollercaster. One second I was being told I wouldn’t be able to conceive, the next I’m giving birth to my daughter.
“Though I’m blessed to have my daughter, I feel very upset and annoyed as they should’ve done a proper investigation. If there was an early intervention I wouldn’t have to gone through what I have today.”
After Elizabeth gave birth to her daughter prematurely, the pain flooded back to the point where she struggled to go to the toilet.
Doctors put it down to post-natal depression and prescribed her antidepressants.
Uterus Didelphys means double uterus and is considered a rare congenital abnormality.
One in about every 2,000 women worldwide have the condition.
Typically, in a female fetus, a uterus starts out as two small tubes and usually joins together to create one larger hollow organ.
In the case of uterus didelphys, the tubes don’t join completely and instead, each one develops into a separate structure.
A double uterus may have one opening into one vagina, or each uterine cavity may have a cervix.
It often causes no symptoms but can be very uncomfortable.
Women who have a double uterus often have successful pregnancies but the condition can increase the risk of miscarriage or premature birth.
The crunch point came when Elizabeth met her now-husband and the couple temporarily moved to Germany for his work, where they had access to private healthcare in 2015.
“Doctors over there investigated me and that’s when they diagnosed me with a double womb and double vagina after doing key-hole surgery,” she said.
“I was really overwhelmed because I finally got the answer to all my doubts about my health after all these years. It was really hard for me to take in and I was very upset.
“I always knew something was wrong so to actually be diagnosed with something it was a little bit of a relief.
“This whole time I thought I was going mad. People would always say why are you always sick? I knew they were thinking I was just making it up, that it was all in my head.
After her diagnosis doctors told Elizabeth that trying for a second child would be extremely risky and that she would have to be careful.
Elizabeth agreed to have a Hysterosalpingogram, where dye is inserted in the womb of women who are struggling to get pregnant, three times over six months and eventually she was able to conceive again and get pregnant in December 2016.
But three months later, she was rushed to hospital after noticing black blood clots coming out of her.
Despite her stomach getting bigger and breasts becoming tender Elizabeth had in fact lost her baby very early on after suffering a ‘silent miscarriage’ at eight weeks.
She was told the fetus had got stuck in her womb and could have proved fatal to her if it had stayed inside.
Fortunately, Elizabeth, who now works for Birmingham City Council, was okay but she says the experience has left a mental scar on her for life.
It led her to set up an organisation called Speciallady Awareness to share her story and empower other women and young girls.
She says: “After I lost the baby, I was really upset but also it just pushed me to want to tell my story.
“I survived such a traumatic experience but another woman may not survive. I really want to encourage women to get checked out properly and to act on any signs they have.”
“People are too scared to talk about it in case people don’t accept them but they need to know that it can happen to anyone. Someone else can be neglected by doctors.”
“It took over two decades for doctors to diagnose me with all these conditions.”