LIFESTYLE

Woman Born With Half A Vagina Says: 'I Want A Normal Sex Life'

18/07/2014 13:27 BST | Updated 18/07/2014 13:59 BST

At 17, the thought of having children is far from the minds of most teenagers. But for Kelly Smith, now 22, it was the age she found out that she'd never be able to conceive.

Kelly suffers from a rare condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser syndrome, which means that she has a very shallow vagina and no womb.

Appearing on Channel 4's Embarrassing Bodies last night, Kelly said: "'It’s very isolating and you feel like a freak, especially when not even doctors are aware of it. It’s a lot to take in, especially at the age of 17 when you are full of hormones as it is."

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The MKRH website says: "It's a congenital syndrome characterised by the absence of the vagina, cervix and the uterus (womb), which affects one in every 5,000 women. It is also associated with kidney, bone and hearing difficulties. The ovaries are usually present and function in the same way as any other woman’s by producing eggs and female hormones that keep you healthy.

"Women usually discover that they have no vagina, cervix or uterus (womb) during puberty. Although they develop breasts and pubic hair, they do not start having periods. This is because the ovaries produce the female hormones that make normal development occur, but the absence of the vagina and uterus mean that there is no period. Most women seek advice about this when they are 15 or 16 years old. However, some women may have found out because they had difficulties with sexual intercourse."

As the website states it is difficult to diagnose - Kelly only found out because the doctors were concerned that she hadn't started her period by the age of 16.

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After visiting a specialist in Bath, they discovered what was wrong, but that didn't make it easier to deal with. There was very little support outside of her immediate network as it is a rare condition.

It also - understandably - complicates her love life.

"It has really affected my relationships. I put a barrier up around myself," she says. "My friends at school would start to get into relationships and would be talking about having sex and I would just nod along."

She did have a good relationship with a man when she was 19, who knew she couldn't have children. Eventually she ended it as she didn't feel it was fair on him.

However there is a bright spot - Kelly is now getting the treatment she needs to work towards having a normal sex life.

Dilator therapy, which involves gradually stretching the vagina over six months to a year, is proving fruitful for Kelly.

She says: "It is really effective and it’s fantastic that it requires no surgery but it is quite time consuming, and clinical."

As for the prospect of children, she says: "I have a friend with the condition who’s 31 and it is really playing on her mind. Right now for me, I’m more concerned about having a normal relationship - I just tackle each problem as it comes."