It’s the operation most women dread, but Megan Bellatrix Archibald can’t wait to have her womb removed.
Megan is only 22, but has spent years pleading with doctors to let her have a hysterectomy.
That’s because every month she experiences excruciating period pain which sees her vomit and bleed uncontrollably. One time, her period lasted nearly six months.
“Sometimes I’ve had points of real depression,” she says. “It does get you down. Facing that type of pain over and over again is just horrendous.”
Megan, from Livingston in West Lothian, first knew things weren’t right when she was just 15, noticing that her school friends were not suffering to the same extent.
“They were coming in, doing PE, they were going out to the cinema, they were doing everything normally and I was in bed being really sick,” she recalls.
“My mum would take me to the doctor and the doctor said ‘OK, we’ll put you on the contraceptive pill, it’ll probably settle down with puberty’ – and it didn’t.
“Around about 21 I started a period and my period didn’t stop. It went on for about 173 days and I was really ill by the end of it.
“I was passing out. I was still at university and I managed to finish the year, but I really didn’t know if I was going to.
“They were really reluctant to do anything. They said it was probably the implant but they couldn’t be sure if it was. The implant was taken out. The bleeding didn’t stop.”
Megan has exhausted all medical treatment options. She is desperate for the hysterectomy, which she believes will take away her pain.
But medics have so far refused because she’s so young and hasn’t had children. Megan, though, insists her mind is made up.
“I was 21 the first time I asked and the conversation didn’t happen,” she says. “It wasn’t that the conversation didn’t go the way I wanted it to go, the conversation just doesn’t happen.
“I’ve since asked GPs at the age of 22 and again the conversation is just sort of ‘OK, but you’re too young, or you might change your mind’.
“It’s very much a case of playing god with someone’s life and with their quality of life.
“I don’t think it should be that you can just wander along one day and then it’s scheduled for two weeks later, but if you’re in a position where the pain isn’t being explained and you’re suffering, you should be allowed an opt out, that should be OK.”
Megan was given fresh hope last year after she underwent a cervical procedure known as an ectopy. This appeared to reduce her pain, but it later returned.
She’s had various diagnoses from various medics and isn’t willing to wait any longer.
“I’ve been told it is unexplained pelvic pain, I’ve been told endometriosis, I’ve been told adenomyosis and then been told they were incorrect,” Megan says.
“For most women with something like endometriosis, it’ll take seven years on average to get a diagnosis anyway. That in itself is horrifying because I’m 22 just now, I’m starting a masters degree, I want to go get my PHD at some point, I’ve got loads of stuff I want to do.
“I don’t want to spend the next seven years fighting for a diagnosis that might or might not eventually come.”
Despite her medical problems, Megan managed to graduate from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen and has now launched a Scottish Parliament petition, calling for a law to be introduced to make it a woman’s right, regardless of age and whether they have had children, to have a hysterectomy.
She explains: “I think the anger is why I decided ‘OK, even if I can’t fix it for me, I could maybe fix it for other people’. I may as well try.”
“I’ve had to take time off work quite regularly over the past few years and you kind of have other women, particularly other women who have maybe never had something like that, who’ll say it’s a period, get over it. You find yourself thinking ‘well no, it’s not for me’.
“There’s nothing I can do about it. I’m taking every medication I can and trying to control it but I can’t fix it.
“I think for the work place and for schools, for getting changed somewhere like the gym, it can just be horrendous and it’s because no-one really speaks about it.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said MSPs would monitor the petition.
They added: “Each patient is treated on an individual basis. We have huge sympathy for women dealing with painful symptoms and considering potentially life-changing treatment options and we will monitor the parliament committee’s consideration of the petition.”
Dr Vanessa Mackay, a consultant in gynaecology, says cases like Megan’s are rare but she does see many women who experience period pain.
She says clinicians will try the least invasive treatments first, but if someone persists in their discomfort, they have to listen, regardless of age.
Dr Mackay said: “It’s really important that we treat everyone as an individual, that we listen to them, we listen to what their preferences are and then we make sure that they are fully informed.
“I think if a lady comes to a doctor and has undergone different investigations but is still driving for a hysterectomy, then it’s really important that we make clear to her the risks versus the benefits.”
She added: “Yes, we have to take into account their age, you have to take into account their need for fertility – do they want to have children?
“Have they decided that absolutely, that isn’t an issue for them, that they are aware of the surgical risks of the procedure but also the non-surgical risks? We know that regret is real and I think it is important for us to do no harm.
“So while someone young might be certain they want a hysterectomy because of the amount of pain they’re in, we have to consider the fact that they may suffer regret later down the line and so it has to be taken into account in partnership with the patient.
“Some ladies do experience a feeling of loss when they have their uterus removed and as long as we share that with the patient I think that’s important as well.”