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Halle Berry's perimenopause was misdiagnosed as 'worst case of herpes' her doc ever saw

Halle Berry with a short haircut posing in a white gown with a golden flower collar
Halle Berry got candid about her sex life in a recent interview when recalling how she learned she was going through perimenopause. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Halle Berry said a herpes misdiagnosis about three years ago prompted her to use her platform to help other women transitioning through menopause.

The Oscar-winning star, 57, divulged the graphic experience that led to her misdiagnosis after having "great sex" with her boyfriend, Grammy-winning musician Van Hunt. The "Monster's Ball" and "Catwoman" star described extreme pain after intercourse, detailing her sex life with "no shame" on Monday at the Getty Center during "A Day of Unreasonable Conversation," the fourth annual summit hosted by social impact agency Propper Daley.

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"I have this great sex. I wake up in the morning, I go to the bathroom, and guess what? I feel like I have razor blades in my vagina," Berry recalled in conversation with a jokingly mortified First Lady Jill Biden (via People and Yahoo Entertainment). "I run to my gynecologist and I say, ‘Oh my God, what's happening?’ It was terrible ... He said, 'You messed up again ... you have the worst case of herpes I have ever seen."

Her doctor, she said, ran more tests and was convinced she had the sexually transmitted disease. So she confronted her partner about it and they both got tested — and both were negative for herpes. She realized later that the pain she was experiencing was a result of vaginal dryness, a symptom of perimenopause, which is the stage when a woman’s period becomes more irregular prior to menopause.

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According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the amount of estrogen produced by the ovaries begins to fluctuate in a woman's 30s and 40s. A common sign of perimenopause is a change in the menstrual cycle, which can become longer than usual, shorter or be skipped altogether. It might be heavier or lighter than usual also.

The mother of two said that her doctor did not prepare her for the transition, which begins the end of a woman's reproductive years: "That's when I knew, ‘Oh my gosh, I've got to use my platform. I have to use all of who I am, and I have to start making a change and a difference for other women.”

Berry has since worked to change the way culture views women at this stage of their lives and founded Respin, a digital community focused on perimenopause and menopausal health that speaks to women like her — people who are "smack dab in the middle of menopause or on the cusp of it," as well as those "who want to be ready for what is coming down the line," according to the organization's website.

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Berry told Biden on Monday that her ego convinced her that she "was going to skip menopause," arguing that she was "in great shape" and considered herself healthy.

"I managed to get myself off of insulin and manage my diabetes since I'm 20 years old. So that makes one think, oh, I can handle menopause. I'm going to skip that whole [perimenopause] thing. I was so uneducated about it at that time," she said.

Biden noted that it's important "we hit it from the side of preventative" medicine. The first lady's appearance at the summit came a week after President Biden signed an executive order to advance the study of women's health.

Berry, whose personal story reflected a broader issue of undertreatment of Black women's pain, addressed her appearance at the event in a Tuesday post on Instagram.

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"Today I had the pleasure of being a part of 'a day of unreasonable conversation.' It’s where producers, writers, show runners and studio heads hear folks talk about what’s important to them and relevant so that the powers that be can create film and TV that matter and that will resonate with audiences!" she wrote.

"Of course, as @respin founder, I was talking about Menopause and was joined by @flotus who is doing groundbreaking work for women’s health issues. So grateful to continue the conversation on a topic that is near and dear to my heart and one that affects half the entire population!," Berry added.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.