‘You end up gaslighting yourself’: Naga Munchetty on enduring pain of womb condition for 32 years without diagnosis

Exclusive: In a highly personal interview, the presenter tells Maya Oppenheim her decades-long pain ordeal began at 16

Tuesday 23 May 2023 06:18 BST
Naga Munchetty hads lived ‘every day on painkillers’
Naga Munchetty hads lived ‘every day on painkillers’ (BBC)

From breaking news to live mishaps, Naga Munchetty takes the unpredictability in her stride – and often while in excruciating pain.

Unbeknown to millions of viewers and listeners, the BBC presenter has been battling a debilitating womb condition called adenomyosis.

In an exclusive and deeply personal interview with The Independent, the 48-year-old revealed she was only diagnosed eight months ago after she bled “for 30 days on the trot”.

An estimated one in 10 women are affected by adenomyosis but the misunderstood condition often remains undetected for years and sometimes even decades. Symptoms include heavy periods, bloating, and pelvic pain.

Ms Munchetty’s experience with this “crippling pain” began long before her diagnosis; she had been warned her entire life that she might suffer from it but it was more than three decades before it was confirmed.

“I went through this for 32 years before being diagnosed,” the Radio 5 Live and Breakfast presenter said. “Even then, there is no like cure, there is no treatment.”

She recalled the pain on the first day she started her period, aged 16, while in a shopping centre with her mother.

“I was literally bent over double,” she recalled. “I went to the loo – I was very ill. I threw up. I had started my period. It was very heavy. I was in extreme pain, crying, doubled over, feeling faint. And that became my routine every time I had my period.”

Ms Munchetty endures constant pain and has lived “every day on painkillers” for the past year – recounting a recent incident where she nearly passed out while presenting Breakfast.

“I just said, ‘I have to leave’,” she recalls. “And I went to the loo and I thought I was going to pass out, but I threw up and then just came back.”

The presenter was left feeling panicky because she could not concentrate. “I just felt I wasn’t in the room because I just couldn’t concentrate,” she adds. “And then you get annoyed with yourself for not doing your job to the best of your ability.”

Ms Munchetty noted she does not wear “light-coloured trousers” while presenting as she is “so afraid” of leaking while on her period, and has been coping with “life-changing” heavy periods since she was a teenager. She explained her period would last for 10 days and come on every two and a half weeks.

“When I used to have my periods, I used to set an alarm every three hours at night, sleep on a towel, and wear a massive sanitary towel,” she recalled.

She also revealed she felt doctors did not take her pain seriously enough when she was growing up even though her periods were “crippling” and she would be “throwing up” and “wrapped around the toilet” for the first 12 hours.

“You’ve got pain and it's just like ‘Oh, you are just unlucky, some women have really heavy periods’,” she added.

“Or you feel like, well, everyone else is having periods and they’re fine. Why am I being so weak? Why am I being such a baby about it? It’s just part of being a woman. It’s almost like you end up gaslighting yourself.”

Ms Munchetty also revealed she was so incapacitated with pain over the past weekend that her husband called an ambulance in the middle of the night because she was “writhing around and moaning and screaming in pain”.

“All I remember saying is: ‘If the ambulance comes (which it didn’t), do not let them give me a full hysterectomy’,” she added. “Because that is the only cure to get rid of it.”

She recalled she was in such agony she did not even know if she would be able to get dressed to get in the car to go to hospital. “It was like something was exploding inside of me constantly.”

The journalist said she was frustrated by the lack of research into women’s health as well as the lack of training doctors receive as she noted a gender, ethnicity, and class gap exists in healthcare.

“Women go through stuff alone, don’t they?” she reflected. “Be it miscarriage, be it bad birth experiences, be it endometriosis, be it adenomyosis, be it body dysmorphia.

“But when we are a collective, when we realise that there are many of us having this, we are stronger.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in