Bartholin’s, blah!

This long-awaited pregnancy had me braced for stretch marks, varicose veins, weight gain, vomiting, enormous boobs and the actual birth process itself.

But I was not expecting a huge, duck-egg sized abscess to appear on my hoo-ha at 35 weeks.

At first I wasn’t going to write about this on the blog, because it’s kind of gross, definitely embarrassing, and also I know a lot of my friends who read this blog have battled with infertility, or are still battling with infertility, and complaining about ANY aspect of pregnancy when you are lucky enough to be pregnant seems can come across as ungrateful and insensitive.

But I’ve spent a lot of time on the internet in the past week trying to find out more about Bartholin’s cyst, or abscess, or Bartholinitis, as this is called, and what I’ve discovered is pretty scanty, especially as it relates to pregnancy. There are a few standard web-doctor rundowns of the condition, which explain that it happens, often without warning, in one in 50 women, usually in their 20s and 30s.

Beyond that, there lot of chat boards filled with the stories of frightened women, enduring a lot of pain, sometimes for weeks at a time, or recurrences of the condition after they’ve either been driven to bursting the abscess themselves (egad!), have had it lanced in an ER (yikes) with local aneasthetic that only works some of the time, or have had repeated procedures such as marsupialisation or even the eventual removal of the gland.

Did I mention that this condition is basically the swelling and infection of a blocked gland in your vulva? You have two, and usually only one gets blocked at a time. Some women get swelling as big as grapes or walnuts, others as big as oranges. Dear God, I cannot imagine having both blocked at the same time.

Anyway, after reading everything I could find online I had to wonder – if this were a condition that caused men’s testicles to inflate hugely and painfully for weeks at a time, with the possibility of recurrence, painful lancing or “procedures”, would medicine have conjured up a much faster, more effective treatment regime? I suspect yes. Hell yes.

The world is inherently unjust, and in medicine no less. Some illnesses or conditions attract a lot more funding and research than others. And this small corner of “women’s business” seems like a pretty neglected area to me. I’ve also been stunned by the lack of feeling some women seem to have experienced from doctors… being waved away, or told it’s nothing serious.

Many women on chatboards report the pain is “worse than childbirth” – this freaked me out, I have to admit. One pregnant woman, who is a paraplegic, said the pain of her abscess was worse than waking up after her back was broken. Forgive me if that made me go weak at the knees… I am a coward, basically. I had steeled myself for childbirth and various pregnancy side effects etc with the knowledge that this is all for this precious baby who’s kicking away inside me even now. After two rounds of IVF, laparoscopy and various increasingly anxious natural efforts to be pregnant, I realise just what a miracle it is that any of us have babies at all. But facing up to a huge amount of pain for no good reason is another matter for this lily-livered blogger.

The good news is, for anyone who gets this while pregnant, there is no risk to the baby unless you start to run a fever. The pain is awful, and you can alleviate it with four or five warm sitz baths a day. I’ve also tried a poultice of raw shredded potato , baths laced with Llanten, a plant common in South America that is famously good at relieving inflammation, and potato and pineapple juice (another anti-inflammatory potion). Also lying around a lot with a wrapped up hot water bottle clasped to my nether regions. In the home remedies department, in the US, UK or Oz, you might try applying a paste of Epsom salts, or using the salts in your bath, or a paste/poultice that’s heavy in Turmeric, or take turmeric in a drink.

In some cases, an abscess can “pop” (told you this would be gross) or drain after a few days of these home remedies. In many other cases, women have to resort to lancing or other medical procedures.

My doctor put me on Amoxicillin five days ago and then went off to Turkey for a conference for two weeks. He told me in 12 years of practice he’d only had one case that hadn’t been resolved with antibiotics, which runs contrary to everything I’ve read on those panic-filled chat boards, but gave me hope.

My stand-in doctor – who I met for the first time yesterday when he kindly agreed to see me on a Saturday – switched me to a new antibiotic, Unasyn, and said that if it hadn’t worked its magic by Tuesday or Wedesday, he is recommending a marsupialisation, where they cut it open under local anaesthetic, and do some complicated thingamy to prevent it recurring.

I am not terribly religious but I am praying it will work out. My concern is the birth! She could come at any moment in the next 4-6 weeks, all my books tell me (due date is July 30) and I just don’t see how you could attempt a vaginal birth as things stand.

I thought I was pretty flexible about the birth – really I just want her to be healthy and ok. And I am not one of those women who would feel like a failure if it didn’t happen that way… I hate that kind fo mummy-judgment that seems to be so popular. But I do feel sad that I might not get the chance to try for such a stupid reason.

I am glad to have met the stand-in doctor, though. He was very kind, direct and seemed very capable, which is a very good thing if this babe does decided to come early.





2 thoughts on “Bartholin’s, blah!

  1. Thanks for writing this. I am currently suffering with a bartholin cyst and I actually laughed out loud at the comment around if this had to do with men’s testicles there would be a cure!
    I wanted to follow up with you to see if you were able to get rid of yours naturally without the surgery.

    • Hi Ivy,

      I am so sorry you are dealing with this too – it’s horrible! We tried two courses of antibiotics for two weeks and i did a lot of sitz baths, some of them with a herb here called Llanten which works well to reduce inflamation. But in the end I had to have the marsupialisation three weeks before the birth.

      I had a vaginal birth and it all went well – I still don’t know how, but the area affected by the Bartholin’s is ok, and the episiotomy scar runs off to the right (my bartholin’s was on the left side)

      Trying to remember now the name of the antibiotic that did help somewhat… I think i wrote it on blog, will check tho. Good luck and let me know how u get on xx

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