When Londoner Nina Evans was told she had no chance of conceiving after being diagnosed with multiple fibroids — benign (non-cancerous) tumours that grow within the muscle tissue of the uterus — doctors advised her to have a hysterectomy.
But Evans, already a mum of one, was desperate to have a second child with her second husband, and she refused to give up hope — and at the age of 45 she fell pregnant with her son Noel, now 6.
According to The Sun, Evans credits leech therapy with helping her to conceive, and it came with some unexpected benefits.
While Evans hoped that the leeches would cauterise or cut the blood flow to the fibroids, she also found that the treatment gave her more energy, more regular periods, clearer skin, and better, longer orgasms.
"I chose leeches because I was born in Lithuania and leech therapy is used for a whole range of illnesses," she said. "They’re considered a general cure for all, and I knew from experience, having had leech treatment before, that it gave you more energy and a more positive outlook."
"Most people see leeches as scaring blood sucking creatures but to me they can change your life entirely," Evans added.
Evans described the first treatment as "like having a pap smear." The doctor used a speculum to insert three leeches into her vagina, and they attached themselves to the inside of her cervix. After around 30 minutes, the leeches dropped out, and Evans described them as coming out "tenfold — some fatter than a bottle of nail polish."
When leeches attach to the body, they release three substances: a local anaesthetic to reduce pain, a local vasodilator to improve blood supply, and hirudin and calin to prevent clotting. After eight months of leech therapy involving over 500 leeches, Evans discovered she was pregnant.
Naturally, Evans' choice of treatment has raised many questions.
"For people who are wondering how leeches don’t get left inside someone’s cervix, they are counted in and counted out so none remain and as they naturally drop off when full, there is no chance you get left with a leech in your vagina," she said.
Evans had a total of six treatments in Russia, and then got her own leeches to continue treatment at home.
That wasn't the end of the leeches' involvement: Evans placed them on her back to help with pain relief during the birth, and attached them to her nipples to "improve breastfeeding."
The experience has made Evans an enthusiastic advocate of leech therapy, and she is now the director of the British Association of Hirudotherapy.
"I know that without leeches I would not have been given the chance to have my son Noel at 45, and that is just the start of what they can do," she said. "I even use them on my 6-year-old to treat bumps and bruises."
And she hasn't stopped there, as she is hoping the blood-sucking creatures will help her conceive a third child.
"I am an educated woman. I travel the world teaching people how to use leech therapy, and it may sound crazy, but I am convinced the leeches have helped give my reproductive system a reboot, taking it back to my 20s," Evans said.
According to the NHS, around 1 in 3 women develop fibroids at some point in their life. They most often occur in women aged 30-50. Common symptoms include heavy bleeding, a feeling of fullness in the lower stomach, enlarged lower abdomen area, going to the toilet a lot, painful sex and lower back pain.
Women who've had children have a lower risk of developing fibroids, and the risk decreases further the more children you have.
Leech therapy can be traced back to the 2nd Century B.C. in ancient Greece, says London Leech Therapy Clinic. The NHS buys 20,000 leeches a year, using them most often for plastic and reconstructive surgery.
Scientific studies suggest leech therapy may also be beneficial for a host of ailments, including arthritis, shingles and varicose veins, and anecdotal evidence says leeches can help with migraines and headaches, thanks to the pain-relieving chemicals in their saliva.
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