Fibroids are tumors which affect many women. They are made up of fibrous connective tissue and smooth muscle cells. The idea that they are “tumors” should not scare anyone, especially since they are usually benign, meaning that they are often non-cancerous. However, just because they are usually benign, doesn’t mean that they won’t affect a woman's well-being. Heavy monthly cycles and cramps are just some of the most common symptoms that women with fibroids experience.
The fact that fibroids occur during a woman’s reproductive years is perhaps one of the reasons why many may fear them. No woman who is interested in starting a family wants to hear that there are any tumors in her uterus. If a woman has been diagnosed with fibroids and would like to know about her treatment options, there are a number of things to consider. Havard Medical School explains that “Managing uterine fibroids depends on several factors, such as a woman’s symptoms, whether or not she wants to have children, her age, and her personal preferences.”
There is so much to consider when dealing with fibroids. Some women are more likely to develop them while others live with them their whole lives without really needing treatment. Scroll down below as we take readers through all that women need to know and consider when they have been diagnosed with fibroids.
According to studies, fibroids are very common. Ask4UFe reveals “studies show that fibroids affect 20 – 40% of women age 35 and over…Usually, fibroids are diagnosed in women between the ages of 35 and 54, but they do occur in some women as young as 20”. The fact that they are so common means that you or someone you know are most likely to have them. Although we’ve touched on some of the symptoms that you may have because of them, most women do not have any symptoms so it is very likely that many people have them and don’t even know it.
Fibroids don't always come with symptoms and if they do, they can be quite varied. It all depends on where they are located, how many you have in your uterus and how large they are. Some common symptoms are; heavy bleeding during menstruation, menstruation that lasts for a long time, swelling of the abdomen, severe menstrual cramps, pain during intercourse, as well as pain in the lower back or pelvis area. Having a combination of any of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that you have fibroids ladies. It is therefore important to book yourself a doctor’s appointment to have a thorough examination done on you as self-diagnosis is not reliable.
Because fibroids affect women, it seems that their existence in our uterus is mostly dependent on estrogen. Science Direct highlights that “fibroids are dependent on estrogen growth; that is, they increase in size and number when the estrogen load is high, such as during pregnancy, with the use of high-estrogen birth control pills, and in insulin resistance”. This is why many women will develop fibroids during their reproductive years but then later in life, not have some of the symptoms discussed above. When a woman experiences menopause, her estrogen levels will begin to decline and if she had fibroids before, they will also begin to shrink in size.
This doesn’t only refer to fibroids, but to pretty much all health concerns. The sooner one is able to get a diagnosis on a health problem, the sooner you’re aware of it, the sooner you can understand it as you’ll do your research on the problem and ultimately, the sooner you’ll be able to get the most suitable treatment for you. With regards to fibroids specifically, we’ve all seen those videos online where women have surgery to remove fibroids that are the size of watermelons. That didn’t happen overnight. Those fibroids were in the uterus for many years. It is therefore important to have regular checkups with your gynecologist and if you have any of the above-listed symptoms, get a checkup as soon as you can.
A healthy, balanced diet is often the first resolution for many health problems. This is because when you’re eating right, you’re getting all the necessary nutrients for your body so that your body can fight back whatever the health issue is. With fibroids, there are numerous measures one can take. Besides cutting back on alcohol, Healthline advises that a Mediterranean diet helps many people. “Research shows that eating these foods regularly may help lower your risk of fibroids. On the other hand, eating beef, ham, lamb, and other red meat may raise your risk”. Although healthy eating will not necessarily treat your fibroids, you can certainly take these methods in order to reduce your risk.
Thank goodness we’re in the digital age that has advanced technology and many treatments for health problems. Once you’ve been diagnosed with fibroids, it is important to immediately educate yourself further about the condition and seek clarity from your doctor regarding the options you have. The options include; oral contraceptives, a myomectomy where the fibroids are removed through surgery while leaving the uterus in place, and a hysterectomy where the uterus is altogether removed. Whether or not you’re interested in having children is, of course, a major factor to consider so be sure to consult with your doctor as soon as you can so that you’re able to get the best possible solution for you and your family.
We have already discussed the importance of a healthy diet and now we want to take a look further – we want to look at the organic route. Consuming produce that is as natural as possible may also help lower your risk. Since the overproduction of estrogen seems to be the main culprit in increasing the size of your fibroids, it would make sense to reduce your estrogen intake. The tricky part is that you may not be aware that some foods you eat have estrogen. Fibroids.com explains that “some produce is sprayed with environmental estrogens, like xenoestrogens; which is why eating organic fruits and vegetables is almost always a better option”.
Yes, we’ve discussed quite a bit about the treatment options, as well as your diet options to help lower the estrogen levels in your system. The great news though is that most women don’t actually need treatment for fibroids. Mayoclinic highlights that “many women with uterine fibroids experience no signs or symptoms, or only mildly annoying signs and symptoms that they can live with…fibroids rarely interfere with pregnancy. They usually grow slowly or not at all and tend to shrink after menopause”. This just highlights that just because you’ve been diagnosed with them, doesn’t mean that your life is over.
A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of all or a part of the uterus and many women have taken this route with regards to their fibroids problem and also other health issues such as heavy or unusual vaginal bleeding and endometriosis. Women’s Health highlights that “each year in the United States, nearly 500,000 women get hysterectomies”. It is also important to note that the leading cause of the reason why women opt for hysterectomies is because of uterine fibroids. If your fibroids are large and many, this is, of course, an option to consider, but one also needs to take into consideration that carrying a child will no longer be an option for you as the uterus, also known as the womb, will be removed.
As previously explained, a hysterectomy is probably your best option if the fibroids are many and very large and if you’re also not planning to have children. This was the go-to procedure for many women but thanks to the advancement in technology, we have a couple of more options to choose from. Besides a hysterectomy, you can also get a myomectomy or an endometrial ablation. A myomectomy involves the removal of the fibroids while still keeping the uterus intact while an endometrial ablation will not necessarily shrink the fibroids, but will destroy the lining of the uterus which will help with the heavy menstrual bleeding that is often associated with them.
This is perhaps the most interesting aspect regarding fibroids. As much as studies have been done where it clearly shows which group of women are at risk, what diet a woman can pursue in order to decrease her risk, and medical treatments to deal with fibroids are quite effective, scientists haven’t really figured out what causes them. Pregnancy, family history and an increase in estrogen levels are all factors that research has pointed to increasing your risk but scientists are still yet to clearly define what causes them. This is perhaps why one can be a woman living a fit and healthy lifestyle yet still develop them.
The fact that they aren’t cancerous is perhaps the silver lining to it all. It is also the reason why many women decide to leave them and just live with them (provided that they are small and don’t cause too much discomfort, of course). Mayoclinic adds that “although uterine fibroids usually aren’t dangerous, they can cause discomfort and may lead to complications such as anemia from heavy blood loss”. So although we aren’t able to fully prevent ourselves from developing these, following a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight have shown to decrease our chances of getting them.
This is, perhaps, one of the first things that pop into many women’s minds when they are diagnosed with fibroids. The fact that they exist in our wombs, makes it a scary thought for a possible pregnancy, but relax. If you’re planning on having children, you may not really be affected much and could still get pregnant. The main contributing factor is the size, as well as the positioning of the fibroids. An early diagnosis, as discussed earlier, will prove to be a great help as the sooner the doctor is aware of them, the better they are able to monitor them and help you decide on the best possible outcome.
Just because you can still get pregnant with fibroids, doesn’t mean that your fertility won’t be affected. We’ve already discussed that regarding a woman’s fertility, the positioning of the fibroids will prove to be an important aspect. Firboids.com explains that “the main factor that can serve as a predictor of the impact on fertility is the location of the fibroids. If the uterine fibroids are located in certain areas of the uterine cavity, they can actually distort the shape and size of the uterus…While fibroids in the wall of the uterus can also have an impact on fertility, this effect is usually far less severe in nature”.
If you’re already pregnant and the doctor discovers that you have fibroids, your number 1 question and concern will be about your baby. As any mother, you want to make sure that your baby will be as healthy as possible. The great news is that most women with fibroids have healthy pregnancies. WebMD adds that “most fibroids don’t grow while you’re pregnant, but if it happens it most likely will be during your first 3 months”. This is because your estrogen levels will be high at this point. It is generally advised that women who have fibroids who want to conceive do so as soon as possible as their fertility chances may change in the future
So you knew that you had fibroids from an early age and then decided to start a family as soon as possible with your partner. You then start to go to your regular checkups to make sure that all is right with the baby and you. While at these checkups, you begin to see an interesting phenomenon occurring – you begin to see that your fibroids are shrinking in size. Yep, that’s right. Healthline explains that “for other women, fibroids may actually shrink during pregnancy. In a 2010 study, researchers found that 79% if fibroids that were present before a pregnancy decreased in size after delivery”.
Early menopause is something no woman wants to hear from her doctor. Unfortunately though, no matter how uncommon it may be, there are a number of women who go through it. Technically speaking, early menopause can be described as a loss of the normal functioning of a woman’s ovaries, before she is 40 years old. Treatment for this includes supplements as well as hormone therapy but as you may know, there is, unfortunately, no way to stop menopause from continuing if it has already started. The medical doctors at Ask4UFe explain that “although unfrequent, early menopause is a possibility [with regards to fibroids] but the risk lies almost exclusively among women who are over the age of 45.”
A person’s genes play a large factor in determining a lot of your health risks. We know that science has proven that diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer, to name a few, can “run in the family”. Although the actual cause of fibroids is yet to be concluded, studies have found that if your mother or a close relative had them, then you are more at risk of developing them as well. It is therefore important to have open discussions with our family members, especially where health is concerned so that you are aware of any potential risks that you may have and you can consult with a doctor regarding these risks as soon as you can.
An active and healthy lifestyle is beneficial to everyone, whether or not you have fibroids. We have already covered the importance of a healthier diet that reduces red meat and increases organic produce. With exercising in particular, women who have fibroids will be glad to know that studies have confirmed that regular exercising may be one of your best defense mechanisms. Fibroids.com highlights that “exercise has been shown to reduce the amount of these circulating hormones, which is why fibroid growth may be prevented by regular exercise”. So, ladies, we guess it’s time to finally make use of that gym account.
Finally, number 1 on this list about fibroids is perhaps, the most important point on this list – educate yourself. There are no words to fully describe the importance of an educated patient. Once you know and understand fibroids better, you will then be better equipped to make the right decisions for you about treatment. We, of course, love Google because she helps us learn more about pretty much any and everything but nothing can beat a consultation with a medical doctor to ask any questions that you may have. As family history may also play a part in you being at risk of developing fibroids, it is also important to have open conversations with your loved ones and to share your newfound knowledge.
References: Harvard Medical School, Ask4UFe, Science Direct, Healthline, Fibroids.com, Mayoclinic, Women's Health, Mayoclinic - They Rarely Turn Cancerous, Firboids.com - They May Affect Fertility, WebMD, Healthline - Childbearing Lowers Your Risk, Ask4UFe - Can Contribute To Early Menopause, Fibroids.com - Exercising