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A student who was born with a rare condition which means she only has one third of a vagina is now looking to raise awareness about the topic.
Anabelle Astley, 19, suffers from Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome, which means she was born without a uterus or two thirds of her vagina.
MRKH means Anabelle, based in Cheshire, will never be able to carry a child or have a period. Sex is also difficult for her, as she had to undergo an 'extremely painful' dilation treatment to stretch her vaginal canal.
Anabelle decided to start speaking openly about her condition after her ex-boyfriend reportedly told '350 people' in their university halls about her condition after they had slept together.
Now single again, the musical theatre student is looking to raise the profile of MRKH syndrome by making a series of TikTok videos for her 13,700 followers.
Speaking about her condition, Anabelle explained: "As bad as what he did is, I'm actually thankful for what he did for me.
"It's made me a million times stronger as a person to the point I can talk so openly and freely about it.
"If he hadn't had done that no one would know about it and I wouldn't have shared it on TikTok - I've already had about 15 girls with the same condition message me - it's amazing.
"Because I'd lost so much control about the situation and I wouldn't leave my room for a couple of weeks during that time I was thinking 'maybe I do need to start raising awareness about it'.
"I thought 'you know what - it's out now, I might as well start opening up about it' and thought TikTok might be a good way to do that."
Anabelle received her diagnosis in December 2017 following a bout of suspected appendicitis.
While she has no uterus, Anabelle was born with ovaries, which means she can go on to have biological children of her own with help of a surrogate.
After heading to university, Anabelle gained the confidence to tell her boyfriend about her condition - the first person she'd ever shared her diagnosis with outside her family.
But she was left distraught when she discovered everyone in her halls had found out about her condition. While he claims he didn't tell anyone, Anabelle was not convinced as he was the only person that knew.
"Coming back and finding out that people I didn't even know knew was really hard and I was mortified - I couldn't leave my little dorm room for two weeks as I was so upset," she said.
"It was a huge shock especially considering I had opened up to him so much about it.
"We were talking about being honest with each other and I said 'well, there is something I do need to tell you' - it must have taken me 45 minutes to actually get it out.
Anabelle continued: "I think any girl with MRKH's biggest fear is telling their partner at the time that they have it because you're so frightened that they're just going to be like 'I'm not going to be with you because of that'.
"He was actually so supportive and I came back and felt a bit like a laughing joke that he'd been running the halls being like 'oh yeah, she's got this and this'.
"He was the first person I had slept with and I've not been with anyone since.
"I hope things will be different with my next partner - hopefully I'll have the courage to tell him."
Despite this 'completely knocking her confidence', Annabelle is passionate about raising awareness of MRKH and now regularly posts about her condition on TikTok - and her first video has racked up nearly a million views.
She explained: "At first it was quite scary I remember I posted it and it was just going up and up with hundreds of views every second and I just burst into tears - I was so overwhelmed by it.
"After that I thought 'wow, maybe I could actually start raising-awareness about it on TikTok' and take back control.
"Nobody has heard about it - even to the point I've had a doctor say 'what do you mean you don't get a period?' and I said I have a condition called MRKH and I've literally had them say to my face 'well I've never heard of that, are you sure you haven't made it up?'
"I've had some really weird comments. People have asked 'what's a uterus?' I've had loads of 'so are you a boy?' and 'does that mean you're transgender then?'
"Hundreds of people who I don't know write the most supportive comments and so many girls with the same condition have come forward who I've made friends with - it's just amazing."
If you have been affected by this article and would like further information, please contact MRKH Support, which can be found here: https://www.mrkh.org.uk/.
Featured Image Credit: Kennedy News Media
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