If you have fibroids, you may worry about future pregnancy. Uterine fibroids, aren’t usually cancerous, which is good news. But they grow in your womb, and they’re very common during your reproductive years. Fibroids develop as single tumors or as multiple growths. Depending on the type, size, and number of fibroids you have, they could affect your pregnancy.
Many women with fibroids think they need a hysterectomy—a surgical removal of the uterus. Some are told it’s the only way to relieve fibroid symptoms. But there are less invasive treatments available, like uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). This is a problem because, no matter what the reason, women who undergo hysterectomies face major surgery complications. And now, studies show that hysterectomies may also lead to mental health struggles.
How a Hysterectomy can Hurt Your Mental Health
Women’s risk for anxiety and depression increase after hysterectomy, according to a study in the journal Menopause.
To reach this conclusion, researchers reviewed the medical records of 2,094 hysterectomy patients. For this study, none of those women had cancer. Next, they compared the records to those of same-aged women who hadn’t had a hysterectomy. And then they followed both groups for 22 years.
As it turns out, woman’s risk for depression relatively increased by 26 percent with hysterectomy. And the risk for anxiety increased by 22 percent after hysterectomy. Researchers discovered that age matters, too. In young women, who had a hysterectomy before 35, there was a 47 percent increased risk for depression. Also, the anxiety risk increased by 45 percent. Outside of cancer, the reason for the hysterectomy didn’t seem to impact the increased risk of mental health issues.
According to lead study author, Dr. Shannon K. Laughlin-Tommaso, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Mayo Clinic, “Hysterectomy is right for some women. But there is this 4 to 6 percent of women who will be affected by depression or anxiety. We’re hoping women will talk with their doctors and see if there’s any alternative they could use instead.”
Uterine Surgery May Interfere with Memory
Depression isn’t the only way hysterectomy may affect your brain function. According to a new, prehuman trial from Arizona State University, a hysterectomy could impact your memory. Now, if that sounds strange, it is. But here’s what we know: your ovaries and brain are connected. So your estrogen and progesterone levels impact your memory. But we now know that your uterus is tied to your autonomic nervous system. Which means that losing your uterus could affect your cognitive ability.
In order to illustrate this fact, Dr. Heather Bimonte-Nelson studied rats before and after a hysterectomy. Allowing for 6 weeks of recovery time, the study tested their post-hysterectomy working memory. And here’s the bad news: after hysterectomy, rats couldn’t navigate a maze they used to complete. In comparison, rats who kept their uterus had no problem finishing the maze. In other words, losing their uterus directly impacted rat memory. Clearly, this study has troubling implications for human females.
UFE: The non-surgical fibroid treatment option
Thankfully, many women with fibroids can find a non-surgical alternative to hysterectomy in our Houston-area practice. Using imagine, catheters and an injection, we are able to cut off blood flow to your fibroids, which makes them shrink and, eventually, disappear. It’s a minimally invasive procedure, usually not involving a hospital stay.
If you have fibroids and are concerned about having a hysterectomy, reach out to our doctors. We can help you determine if UFE is the right treatment option for you.
As Houston fibroid specialists, we want to help women understand their fibroid risk. And we like to celebrate women who share their fibroid journeys. Like Augusta, Georgia News 12 anchor Monique Williams, who missed lots of air time because of fibroid pain. At first, Williams kept quiet about her struggle. Soon, however, she gave her viewers and explanation. In fact, she revealed her struggle with fibroids.
Now, some of what she scares is scary. Like Monique, eight out of every 10 black women develop uterine fibroid tumors. In Ms. William’s case, her fibroids got very large. This eliminated many of her treatment options. So Ms. Williams ultimately had a complete hysterectomy due to the solid, sheer mass of the tumors.
The TV anchor’s struggle left her entire news team wondering: why do African American women have such a high risk of developing fibroids?
Black Women and Fibroids
Black women are three times more likely to develop fibroids than women of any other race. And we don’t know why! What we do know is your fibroid risk is related to family history . Like Monique Williams, her mother also ended up getting a hysterectomy in order to put an end to her fibroid pain. In addition to a genetic predisposition, potential exposure to the chemicals in hair relaxing products and an earlier onset of menstruation may all increase a woman’s risk of developing fibroids. While there is no way to prevent fibroids from first developing, high-risk women can and should take certain precautions.
What’s Your Fibroid Risk?
First and foremost, women with a high likelihood of developing fibroids should be familiar with the signs and symptoms of these tumors (major red flags include heavy menstrual bleeding, abdominal pain and bloating and anemia); black women should ask their OBGYNs for regular screenings. Visits to the doctor should be annual.
Since both a diet high in carbohydrates and increased body weight both elevate fibroid risks, it’s also important for women to get regular exercise and choose lean proteins, fruits and veggies over bread, pasta and other grains.
For Ms. Williams, who has now returned to her news desk, sharing her story was all about helping other women know their options. While a hysterectomy was her choice, she made sure to share information on fertility-preserving treatment options like myomectomy (surgical removal of individual tumors) or tumor-shrinking, non surgical procedures like Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE.) As a news anchor, Monique lives to inform others, and because she turned her personal struggle into a teaching moment for all other women, we salute her as our Woman Crush of the week!
Sources: WRDW News 12
Experiencing fibroid symptoms is far more common than you might think. According to the National Institutes of Health, 80 to 90 percent of African American women and 70 percent of Caucasian women will develop fibroids before the age of 50.
Since uterine fibroids are prevalent, can cause severe symptoms and can even lead to trouble getting or staying pregnant, it is important to know the warning signs of fibroid development.
But it’s also important to recognize that some uterine fibroids and endometriosis both cause similar symptoms. (Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue from your uterus, endometrium, grows in or on other parts of your body.) Like women with fibroids, women with endometriosis may experience heavy, painful periods as well as bleeding between periods.
The best way to diagnose the cause of your symptoms is to see your healthcare provider. But you can also narrow down the cause of your pelvic pain and heavy bleeding by better understanding your risk for developing fibroids.
Who is At Risk for Fibroid Symptoms en?
African American women are three times more likely than caucasian women to develop fibroids; they are also more likely to develop several fibroids at a time. Other factors that could increase a woman’s risk of developing fibroids include your age (being over 40) and your weight, since obesity increases your risk. You should also learn your family history of fibroids, and understand that high blood pressure, or never having a pregnancy, could also increase your risk.
Can I Lower My Fibroid Risk?
While many factors can increase your fibroid risk, there are steps you can take to lower your risk of developing these non-cancerous uterine tumors. Some measures include:
- Becoming pregnant
- Balancing your hormones
- Long-term use of birth control pills or shots
- Following a fibroid friendly diet (see more here)
What are the Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids?
Every case is different and some women may never experience symptoms, but a majority of women with fibroids experience at least one of these three common symptoms.
Excessive Menstrual Bleeding
The most common symptom for women with fibroid tumors is excessive bleeding while menstruating. Often times, the bleeding is prolonged, causing periods to last longer than normal. This can lead to soiling of clothing and may interfere with everyday activities.
Pelvic Pain & Pressure
Women with fibroids may feel pain in their lower abdomen. As fibroids grow larger, depending on their size and location, they may cause pain by putting pressure on organs. In addition, it could cause swelling that is often mistaken as weight gain or pregnancy.
Loss of Bladder Control
Fibroids can press against the bladder causing frequent urination and even loss of bladder control. Not only can this cause a great deal of pain, it can disrupt your everyday activities. In addition, fibroid growth can place pressure on the bowel, causing constipation and bloating.
Reaching a Uterine Fibroid Diagnosis
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, schedule an appointment with our fibroid specialists. Fibroids can usually be found during a simple abdominal or pelvic exam. If your doctor feels that you may have fibroids, an ultrasound or MRI may be used to confirm the diagnosis and proceed with treatment. And, if your provider rules out fibroids as the cause of your symptoms, he or she may recommend further testing to confirm or rule out an endometriosis diagnosis.
Sources: Bioidentical Hormone Health
When your stomach hurts after sex, it’s upsetting. And it makes intimacy challenging. Plus, this symptom’s confusing: why would your stomach hurt after you’re done with intimacy? We totally understand your confusion! So, to get to the bottom of this symptom, we’re reviewing some common causes of post-coital stomach pain.
Why Does My Stomach Hurt After Sex?
we know it’s scary when something that’s supposed to feel good leaves you in pain. But, before you panic, get armed with information! Here are four possible reasons why your stomach hurts after having sex.
1. Fibroids can make your stomach hurt after sex.
Fibroids are non-cancerous uterine tumors that may cause pain during sex. A lesser known, but also common, symptom? Your stomach might hurt after sex if your fibroids trigger non-menstrual cramping.
What to do: We can diagnose fibroids with a pelvic ultrasound or MRI. If you receive a fibroid diagnosis, know that you don’t have to have surgery to find relief! Be sure to discuss all treatment possibilities with your doctor.
2. You may have endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a condition in which bits of your uterine lining make their way out of your uterus. When you have endometriosis of the pelvis, your organs in that area may adhere to each other. So, if deep penetration is painful, this could be why your stomach hurts after sex .
What to do: Endometriosis can be difficult to diagnose, so you’ll want to discuss your entire medical history, including your stomach pain, with your doctor. If you have enough symptoms to suggest endometriosis may be the culprit, you will have to undergo laparoscopic surgery to receive a diagnosis. After you are diagnosed, birth control pills or certain other medications can help control your symptoms.
3. You could have a pelvic cyst.
Ovarian cysts are typically harmless, fluid-filled sacs that develop in or on your ovary. And, while they don’t require treatment, pelvic cysts are a different story. These cysts are often a sign of infection or problematic anatomical issues.
What to do: You can diagnose a pelvic cyst via ultrasound. usually, pelvic cysts are removed via minimally invasive surgery
4. An infection may be to blame.
Pelvic Inflammatory disease (PID) is a type of vaginal infection. It’s triggered when bacteria from your vagina spreads to your uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries. One common PID side effect is widespread vaginal pain that’s mistaken for stomach pain. Unfortunately, untreated PID leads to scarring and lasting stomach pain, even after your infection clears up.
What to do: See your doctor right away. If you catch an infection early on, symptoms can usually be cleared up quickly with antibiotics. If, however, scarring and/or PID has set in, more invasive treatments may be necessary.
Treating Stomach Pain That Occurs After Sex
So, now we’ve gone over some of the ‘scary’ reasons that your stomach may hurt after sex. Of course, there are some other, less problematic, causes of post-coital stomach pain—you’ve tried a new position, or you’re not using enough lube. But sex should feel good. And stomach pain doesn’t. So talk to your doc right away if pain during or after intercourse happens more than once.
Do you suspect that fibroids are causing your post coital pain? Come see our Houston specialists to learn your treatment options. Other fibroids symptoms include heavy periods, bloating, and pelvic pain, even when you aren’t engaged in intercourse.
We need to provide more alternatives to fibroid surgery in this country. Too many women with fibroids—non-cancerous tumors of the uterus—get hysterectomies (complete uterus removal). In fact, fibroids are the top reason women in the U.S. get hysterectomies. Because it’s such a serious surgery, many women opt for less invasive fibroid treatments. In our office, we offer Uterine Fibroid Embolization, a non-surgical treatment that shrinks your fibroids.
Oral and Minimally Invasive Alternatives to Fibroid Surgery
Recently, the FDA approved a new oral medication for women with fibroids, that’s expected to be available later this month. Called Oriahnn, the pill combines estrogen, progestin, and elagolix (a gonadotropin-releasing hormone). It’s important to note that this pill doesn’t shrink your fibroids. Instead, it decreases fibroid symptoms like heavy bleeding.
Also, this pill won’t prevent pregnancy, even though it’s hormonal. And, studies note that taking the medication can cause long-term bone loss. Which means that you can’t take the pill for more than two years. That leads us to the question: what next? Unfortunately, once you stop taking this pill, your fibroid symptoms would return, sending you back to the start of your treatment journey. And, since they don’t want that journey to end in a hysterectomy, researchers at Michigan State University are trying to figure out why fibroids form in the first place. Because, in doing so, they hope to keep every woman from being pushed towards hysterectomy because of fibroid tumors.
Genes and Fibroids: The Newly Discovered Connection
In the course of this study, researchers at MSU’s College of Human Medicine discovered that HOXA13, a gene associated with fibroids, was connected to a process, known as homeotic transformation, that causes uterine muscle cells to turn into cells more typically found inside your cervix.
“It’s a cell type in a position where it doesn’t belong,” explained lead researcher Dr. Jose Teixeira said. “This was a surprise.”
But this discovery isn’t just informative: it could change the way we treat fibroids. Specifically, new treatments could target the chain of events that causes your cells to change. That way, you could treat existing tumors with less invasive treatments, such as Uterine Fibroid Embolization. Then, you could use molecular therapy to prevent any new tumors from forming.
As Teixeira explains, “The discovery that fibroid tumors have characteristics of cervical cells could be a key to better treatments. For example, among pregnant women, the cervix typically softens just before delivery. Figuring out what causes the cervix to soften could suggest new therapies that soften the fibroid tumors and prevent or inhibit their growth.” And, if that works out, you could eliminate any hysterectomy discussions!
What’s Next for Fibroid Research?
While new therapies are still going to take a while, this research is already changing the way scientists study fibroids. Now, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is funding a follow-up fibroid study. It’s focus? Texeira says he wants to discover: “Is there a place where we can intervene? That’s the follow-up. If we can find out what’s causing the cervical softening, then we might be able to investigate treatment.” And that could stop fibroid growth before a tumor ever forms.
Adenomyosis is a benign, non-life threatening condition. But its very painful, and patients need relief. Unfortunately, doctors often confuse adenomyosis with uterine fibroids and other conditions, so it can be difficult to diagnose without proper medical attention.
One of the newer treatments for Adenomyosis is UAE, or Uterine Artery Embolization. How does its effectiveness stack up against other treatments?
We’re fibroid specialists in Houston, and it’s our job to help women. Now, we do that job by providing a minimally invasive fibroid treatment called UFE (uterine fibroid embolization.) But we also know that choosing your best treatment option takes time. And, during that time, we want to help you alleviate some of your painful symptoms, like pressure, bloating or long and heavy periods.
As a result, we always follow fibroid research to learn about effect symptom management tools. And, recently, we’ve been excited about findings connecting Vitamin D and fibroids. Here’s what you need to know.
Does Vitamin D Limit Fibroid Growth?
While we wait for a clinical trial, we’ve got some exciting news to share. Early evidence suggests that, in the short term, Vitamin D therapy helped keep fibroids at their current size, preventing further growth for both Caucasian and African American women. (While we don’t know why, African American women are disproportionately impacted by uterine fibroids.) And, with long term Vitamin D treatment, many women experienced fibroid shrinkage.
Obviously, this is exciting news. We know that many women with fibroids end up choosing hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus). Often, they do so when less invasive options were available. So why does that happen? Too many women just don’t know of other options. And too many doctors don’t tell women about less invasive choices like UFE.
To help fill this void, we share news about every kind of less-invasive fibroid treatment. Because we want women to find their personal best option. And accurate information is the best way to make that decision. Now, Vitamin D might not provide enough relief from fibroid symptoms (we’ll need a true clinical trial to really explore this fibroid treatment option.) But, in the meantime, Vitamin D supplementation could offer some fibroid symptom relief while you explore more permanent treatment options. Plus, you could enjoy additional Vitamin D benefits. Let’s take a closer look.
Additional Benefits of Vitamin D
Research suggests that Vitamin D can help boost your immune system, and may even prevent certain diseases. Vitamin D also helps manage depression, and may help with weight loss. (This could be another reason why Vitamin D affects your fibroids: maintaining a healthy weight can also limit fibroid growth.)
So, how can you get more Vitamin D in your diet? Our primary source is sun exposure, but you have to be careful about sun damage, especially in our hot Houston summer. Therefore, you may need to add a Vitamin D supplement. But before you do, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider. And be sure to explore all your fibroid treatment options, either with your primary care provider, or with a fibroid specialist.
Sources: Fertility and Sterility Journal
For a while now on this blog, we’ve followed Real Housewives of Atlanta star Kandi Burrus’s struggles with fertility, fibroids and pregnancy. (And we’re so excited for her Season three of the Masked Singer win!) Fibroids (which disproportionately affect African American women like Burruss) are non-cancerous tumors. But they can still make it difficult for women to become pregnant or carry a baby to term. And because Kandi has stayed honest and open about her family’s journey, helping other fibroid sufferers feel heard, she is—once again—our Woman Crush Wednesday honoree.
Real Housewife Expands Her Family Via Surrogate
Kandi and her husband, Todd Tucker, share a three-year-old son, Ace, who they welcomed through IVF. While Kandi was able to carry and deliver Ace, her pregnancy was high-risk because of her fibroids. And she faced serious medical complications during her pregnancy.
That IVF cycle left the couple with some embryos which could expand their family. But given Kandi’s health struggles, they realized it would be too risky for her to try and make it through another pregnancy. That’s when they decided to explore surrogacy—when another woman carries your fertilized embryo—with the help of OBGYN Dr. Jackie Walters, who stars on Bravo TV’s Married to Medicine.
In a recent interview with The Daily Dish, Dr. Walters said, “I am so excited that Kandi wants to keep expanding her family because she is my patient, whether it’s with her or a surrogate. So, keep having babies. I love it. Have more babies!”
Struggling with an Alternative Pregnancy Journey
Even with the joy of anticipating her new baby’s arrival, Kandi’s surrogacy experience wasn’t easy. In fact, Kandi recently revealed that her surrogate was initially carrying twins, but lost one of her embryos.
“We actually was supposed to be having twins, and then one of them didn’t continue,” she said, continuing, “I was sad at first, but then I just had to be grateful that the one made it.”
And even with her gratitude, Kandi acknowledged it was difficult to have another woman carry her child. “I just feel like this whole situation is strange,” she said. “[You] don’t get to be excited about the first kick… [or] about, ‘Oh now my baby bump is showing…’ You have this guilt [and] sadness,” she said, concluding, “So it’s a joyous, yet interesting experience.” Kandi’s baby is due this month.
Fertility and Fibroids: a Joyous Yet Interesting Experience
As Houston fibroid specialists, we think that Kandi described it perfectly. When you have fibroids, starting or expanding your family will still be joyous. And yes, it will almost always still be possible.
What you have to keep in mind is that your journey to reaching your family goals may be, well, a bit more interesting than other people’s. And that’s ok. Just follow Kandi’s example, and look for the joy wherever you can. Thanks, #WCW, Kandi: you’re an inspiration to any woman struggling with fertility and fibroids!
Sources: The Daily Dish
Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that develop in and on your uterus. We don’t know why some women get fibroids while others don’t. But now we do know something new about fibroids and your cancer risk. According to a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, women with fibroids are at a higher risk of developing thyroid cancer.
Again, the reason for this risk increase isn’t clear. But study authors suggest the connection may be your female hormone levels. Regardless of the reasons, one this is certain. Even if you treat your uterine fibroids, you should always mention your fibroid history to your doctor, since these growths could impact other areas of your health.
Now, if you have fibroids, your healthcare provider may say that you need a hysterectomy. But if you decide to surgically remove your uterus, you will automatically enter menopause. And, according to new research, when your body enters menopause, your risk for endometrial cancer rises significantly.
The Connection between Menopause and Cancer
We already know that endometrial cancer mostly impacts women over 60. And it’s also clear that these women are almost universally in menopause. So, we had an idea that this cancer was connected to menopause.
But now, thanks to a study in Scientific Reports, we know that menopause is actually a trigger for this cancer risk. In fact, Mayo Clinic researchers discovered that menopause changes your vagina’s microbiome. (A microbiome is simply a description of the micro-organisms in any environment.) And these changes increase your endometrial cancer risk.
In the U.S., endometrial cancer is fourth most common among women. And, unfortunately, this cancer’s rates are rising. What that suggests is that changes in our environment, including diet, lifestyle, and the vaginal microbiome, may be responsible for this uptick.
According to Marina Walther-Antonio, Ph.D., lead author of the study, finding these changes is crucial. That’s because, she believes, “This could have important implications for endometrial cancer prevention.”
How to Fight Endometrial Cancer
In the wake of this discovery, researchers can now identify several main risk factors for endometrial cancer. They include: Obesity, post-menopausal status and—the newest addition to the list—a high pH level in your vagina.
Plus, Dr. Walther-Antonio says, “We have determined that all of these factors impact the reproductive tract microbiome, further identified post menopause as a key factor, and are looking ahead to discuss potential translational applications of this knowledge, which may bring new approaches to address current health disparities in endometrial cancer,” says Dr. Walther-Antonio.
The goal of the study was to understand how endometrial cancer risk factors alter the reproductive tract microbiome and endometrial cancer risk. We now clearly see that menopause is a factor in your endometrial cancer risk. Which means that you should carefully consider all your fibroid treatment options before choosing one that will prematurely trigger menopause. For more information on less invasive fibroid treatment options, we invite you to schedule a consult with our Houston area fibroid specialists.