Understanding Uterine Fibroids
I recall a day during my nursing rotation that I made the unforgettable mistake of assuming that a woman was pregnant. In my high energy, warm, inviting spirit, I said “Congratulations, when is your due date.” She quickly and shamefully corrected me and said, “I’m not pregnant, I have fibroids”. That day, I felt time had stood still as I saw the shame and disappointment on her face. I remember apologizing infinitely and could see nothing I said made her feel better. I reported to the nursing station and searched the internet about fibroids because I couldn’t believe a fibroid could grow that pronounced that someone could appear pregnant. How can that be and why are females living with fibroids to this degree?
Amused and flabbergasted by my findings, I vowed not to make that mistake again. Instead, I advocate for educating women about fibroids and measures to treat fibroids so that they can live a more fulfilling life. A fibroid is a benign (not cancerous) tumor that grows in the wall of the uterus. They can be singular tumors or they can grow like clusters. A fibroid can be as small as a seed or as large as a grapefruit. There are unusual cases where they can grow larger than a grapefruit.
Fibroids are most common in women in their 30s-40s, African American decent, obese, women who’s diet includes consuming an abundance of red meat and who have a family history of fibroids. The most common symptoms include heavy menstrual bleeding, frequent urination, enlargement to the lower abdomen, pain during sex, lower back pain, and fullness in the pelvic area, just to name a few. The symptoms definitely alter your lifestyle. Many women report changing tampons every 1-2 hours, bleeding through pads and having to use Poise incontinent pads for added protection when out in public to avoid embarrassing bleedings. Often times because of the heavy bleeding, many women are anemic and feel tired and weak on a consistent basis.
So the frequent question is how do I get fibroids? There is no concrete answer besides knowing that fibroid formation is in direct correlation with hormonal and generic factors. Hormonally fibroids can be controlled with both estrogen and progesterone. They can shrink with anti-hormone medication. Women can still get pregnant with fibroids but because they are more hormonal during pregnancy, the fibroids will grow more rapidly which can cause complications. Complications include cesarean sections, breech births, placenta abruptions, and preterm delivery.
So what are the treatments for fibroids? Please consult with your doctor about your symptoms and a plan of care can be developed. An ultrasound and MRI will determine if fibroids are present, the quantity and the location of the fibroid. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your physician will help you determine the best treatment course. Noninvasive treatments may include oral medications like hormones, and over-the-counter medications like Tylenol for pain and Motrin as an anti-inflammatory. If surgery is the best options, many exist: hysterectomy, myomectomy, uterine fibroid embolization, etc.
For anyone suffering with fibroids, just know there is help. First, understand your condition, where your fibroids are located and the symptoms you are having. Don’t ignore what you are experiencing. Second, confront the problem with a trained professional who can pin point a solution for you. Lastly, be encouraged and know comfort and a solution is available. Take control of your life. You deserve it.