When Kristen was 16, she went to the doctor to find out why she hadn't started having her period. After a series of tests, the teenager learned she had been born without internal sex organs, including the cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes. Although she appears to have normal external genitalia, Kristen's vaginal tunnel is only about an inch deep.
"I felt like a freak," Kristen, now 26, says. "A woman is made up of these certain parts, and I'm missing a majority of those."
Kristen was diagnosed with Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser Syndrome (MRKH), a genetic disorder that causes the vagina and uterus to be underdeveloped or completely absent.
Although she does have two normally functioning ovaries, they are not connected to anything inside her body. "Not only can I not have children, but I can't have sex," Kristen explains.
There is no known cause for MRKH syndrome, but researchers believe the condition most likely results from a combination of genetic and enviromental factors. Studies have not identified an association with maternal drug use, illness or other factors.
Most cases of MRKH syndrome occur in people with no known family history of the disorder. And although relatively unknown, the disorder is not rare. According to the National Institutes of Health, MRKH syndrome affects one in 4,500 newborn girls.