What They Don't Tell You About Being A Woman
There are many things that, as women, we don't know about till we experience them. Things like the whole pooping when you give birth and having to wear an adult diaper after labour. I thought I knew all that I needed to regarding periods, as most women do. But apparently, I did not. Not until I experienced quite possibly one of the most traumatic experiences I've ever had in my 19 years on this planet. This experience was the passing of a Decidual Cast, something I'd never heard of. Many of my friends and family had also never heard of it, and even my doctor had to do some research.
A Decidual Cast refers to the passing of a large, intact piece of tissue through your vagina. It's most likely to occur in people who have either had a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy, so you can imagine my confusion when it occurred to me.
Let me share with you my quite gruesome experience. To set the scene, it was around 3 am and I had just arrived back at my accommodation after a night out with my flat. This was when I first started experiencing stomach cramps. Initially, I thought nothing of it; I just figured it was due to the alcohol I had consumed, so I went to bed and figured it would be gone in the morning - this was not the case. Around two hours later, I was awoken by one of the most excruciating cramps I have ever experienced; these cramps continued. At first, I thought maybe I was in labour, but my senses came to, and I realised that there was no chance of that. I got up to head to the loo. As I did, I felt something wet fall out of my body and into my underwear, so I sat on the loo and looked and, to my horror, was faced with this large fleshy mass, around the size of a two-pound coin. I think this was when I realised that okay, something is wrong, the cramps were still going strong, and I had started to bleed as if I was on my period. I did what anyone would do and called my mum. She answered my frantic call at 5 am and was faced with the same view I was, the mass.
I figured that she would know what it was. She's had three kids, so I assumed she would have experienced something similar, but she had not. This panicked me even more. I think it was around this point that I started crying, and my flatmate just so happened to hear and came to see if I was okay. He came in and was just as shocked as I was; whether that was by my state or the fleshy mass, I'm still unsure! Thankfully he was with it enough to call 111 and see what they had to say. Initially, they were not too fussed and just said to keep an eye on how much I was bleeding, but when I described the mass, they informed us that we should head over to A&E, so we did just that.
The A&E trip was surprisingly the most unhelpful part of this whole experience. On the journey to the hospital, the shock from the amount of blood lost made me throw up. When we got into A&E, they couldn't really care less about the decidual cast and just wanted to get me to stop throwing up, so I was discharged after having some fluids and anti-sickness and told to book a GP appointment. I arrived back home and called the GP to book an appointment. This part of the day is all a grey area for me as I was so exhausted as soon as I had hung up; I fell asleep and don't think I woke up until around the same time the next day.
Fast forward to around three days, and I had my telephone call with my GP. She was amazing and was the one who came to the conclusion that I had experienced a decidual cast. She sent me a link to a WebMD page that gave me a lot of information about decidual casts and booked me in for an ultrasound and a cervical examination.
The cervical examination was one of the worst things I have ever experienced. I was told I would experience some mild discomfort, but I was in so much pain I genuinely thought I would be sick. My GP noted that it is uncommon for cervical examinations to cause so much pain and that she believes I have a polyp located on the outside of my cervix. A cervical polyp is a small, elongated tumour that grows on the cervix. Again, this is very uncommon in women of my age, so my doctor ran a few tests as they can be a sign of cervical cancer.
I then went for my ultrasound which was a lot better than the examination. I am still waiting on the results of that. Then I will be referred to the hospitals' gynaecology ward for further treatment if needed.
Going forward and trying to recover from the trauma, I find myself trying to work out if there were any signs or if I did something that caused it, but I can't. There were no big flashing signs were saying, 'look out you're about to pass a decidual cast'; it's just the normal period signs and the typical cramping and spotting. I wish I could sit here and tell you exactly what to look out for and how to prepare yourself, but I cannot, decidual casts are so uncommon and so unresearched that there is no real knowledge about them, a simple google brings up 2 or 3 pages with basic information and the rest are inserts from medical notes about female patients who have experienced this.
Initially, I didn't know how to react to what had happened. I felt alone. Usually, these big events that require hospital visits I would do with my mum beside me, but I was at University, and COVID meant that I couldn't even have a friend in the waiting room with me. I realised that the best way to cope was by sharing, by educating others on this and just talking it out. It's now a running joke within my friendship circle that I gave birth and for me, joking about it is my coping mechanism. Yes, there have been occasions when I've been terrified as to what this is going to mean for me, and there have definitely been a few tears shed with my friends, but that's healthy. I would think something was wrong if I didn't get upset.
I think that is the best piece of advice I can give someone who may have been through this same trauma, talk about it, cry about it if you need and ultimately just enjoy yourself. Experiencing this has been such an eye-opener to me; it made me aware of types of cancers and polyps I didn't even know existed. It showed me the different ways in which my body is trying to keep me healthy and tell me that something is wrong. The most important thing to keep in mind, yes this is a terrifying thing to experience but ultimately, if you go through the right channels, you may have caught an illness in the early stages and have saved your life.
I wanted to write this article to help raise awareness of decidual casts, as even though they are uncommon, they can still happen to us all. From my personal experience, they are incredibly traumatic to experience, and the unknown makes that so much worse. So, if I can help even just one person go through the experience of a decidual cast by writing this article, then I am happy.