Author: Houston Fibroids

Why Does my Stomach Hurt After Sex?

Pain during sex is upsetting and can make you avoid intimacy, but pain immediately after intercourse can be equally frightening–and even more confusing! To get to the bottom of why you may be experiencing stomach pain after intimacy, we’re explaining some common causes for post-coital stomach pain:  

What Makes Your Stomach Hurt After Sex 

1. You have fibroids.

While fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that form in your uterus, they are known to cause pain during sex. A lesser known, but also common, symptom? Fibroids can cause you to experience cramping, which could explain why your stomach hurts right after sex.

What to do: Fibroids can be diagnosed by a pelvic ultrasound or MRI. If you receive a fibroid diagnosis, know that there are non-surgical treatment options available. Be sure to discuss all treatment possibilities with your doctor.

2. You have endometriosis.

Endometriosis is basically occurs when 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. Deep penetration can thus cause you to experience stomach pain, often severe, during and 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 have a pelvic cyst.

While ovarian cysts (typically harmless, fluid-filled sacs that develop in or on your ovary) are usually harmless and don’t require any treatment, pelvic cysts are a different story. They may be a sign of a bigger problem brewing, like an infection or an anatomical issue that will need correcting.

What to do: A pelvic cyst can be diagnosed via ultrasound, and, if detected, it can be removed by a laparoscopic procedure.

4. You have an infection like PID.

Pelvic Inflammatory disease, or PID, is a type of vaginal infection (a.k.a. pelvic inflammatory disease) that can occur when bacteria is spread from your vagina to your uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries. One common PID side effect is vaginal pain that’s so widespread, it can be mistaken for stomach pain. Unfortunately, if you don’t treat PID promptly, it can leave you with scarring that can cause stomach pain long 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.

 

Those are 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, since sex should feel good, and since stomach pain after sex doesn’t feel good and could be a warning sign of something more serious, it’s best to talk to your doc right away if pain during or after intercourse is something more than a one-time occurrence.

 

These Fibroid Myths are Worth Forgetting

If you’ve been diagnosed with fibroids, here’s the truth: you may experience side effects like heavy periods, pelvic pain and constipation. You may have difficulties becoming pregnant, or carrying a pregnancy to term. You will certainly want to talk to your doctors about all the treatment options that are available to you. Those are the facts. Now, here are the fictions that you need to dismiss: 

MYTH #1: Untreated Fibroids Will Keep On Growing 

Some fibroids, if left alone, will keep on growing. In fact, some women who have delayed fibroid treatment ended up with fibroids the size of a nine-month-old fetus. But that is not always the case. Many women with fibroids will not even realize it, because their tumors are tiny, stable in size, and cause no symptoms. Other fibroids may grow to a certain point and then stop growing altogether. And, on rare occasions, some fibroids will rupture, creating a medical emergency.

But here’s the tricky part: it’s hard to know what kind of growth pattern your fibroid will follow. For that reason, even if you decide to delay treatment, you will want to see your doctor regularly to monitor tumor development. 

MYTH #2: Fibroids must be removed.

Fibroids that aren’t causing symptoms may not require any form of treatment, especially if you’ve completed your family or have no interest in becoming pregnant. If your fibroids are causing symptoms like heavy bleeding, severe pain or fertility problems, you’ll likely want to seek treatment, but surgeries like myomectomies (removal of the fibroid) or hysterectomies (removal of the uterus) are not your only options. 

If you’ve decided to treat your fibroids, you may be able to undergo Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), a minimally invasive treatment option that shrinks your fibroids over time by blocking the blood flow to them. Not everyone is a candidate, but if you are looking for a treatment option with little down time and no hospital stays, it’s worth exploring with your interventional radiologist. 

MYTH #3: Taking medication can make fibroids disappear.

Nonsurgical fibroid treatments, like UFE, are sometimes an option. And some other treatment options, like progesterone-based pills or shots, or certain birth controls, can lessen fibroid symptoms like heavy bleeding. Some drugs may even help shrink your fibroids over time, but the benefits will disappear as soon as you get off the meds. Additionally, several fibroid medications have recently been connected to other, more serious, health complications 

MYTH #4: Menopause Cures Fibroids

While many women will experience relief from fibroids after the onset of menopause, that’s not the case for everyone. In fact, if you decide to  undergo hormone replacement therapy to manage menopause symptoms, you may even see new fibroid development! 

Postmenopausal women can still require treatment for fibroids. And for many of these women, who have completed their families,  a nonsurgical approach like UFE will be the ideal treatment option. 

If you are facing a fibroid diagnosis, don’t listen to the myths or rumors. Speak to your doctor about all the treatment options available, and make an informed decision based on the facts alone. 

Normal or Not: Your Period Edition

So many people are too shy or embarrassed to talk about their periods, and that’s a big problem: if you don’t speak up, you may worry needlessly or you may never identify symptoms that indicate a bigger medical problem. In order to help you navigate this sensitive subject, we’re breaking down what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to your monthly visitor. Keep in mind, however, that every woman’s cycle is different, so it’s worth mentioning any major changes to your OBGYN, even if they are seemingly within the normal range. 

First things first, though: a quick review of the basics.

What is your period?

A period is the shedding of your uterine lining. This lining builds up over the course of the month in preparation for pregnancy. “If you don’t get pregnant, your hormone levels drop, and the lining separates from your uterus. That’s when you experience the bleeding known as your period.

Bleeding

Normal: Women’s periods are typically heavier at the start of their cycle, and gradually become lighter.

Not Normal: If you have to change your pad or tampon more than every few hours; if you are bleeding through protection or having to get up at night to change your protection so you avoid stained sheets; or if you are passing large clots, you may be experiencing abnormal bleeding. And, while the excess bleeding can be problematic on its own (left unchecked, it can cause anemia), it could also be the sign of underlying problems like fibroids, certain cancers or other medical concerns.

Timing

Normal: Again, all women are unique, but ‘normal; cycles range from 21 to 35 days between the first day of one period to the first day of the next. The bleeding typically lasts between three and eight days, according to their website.

Not normal: Once you’re out of adolescence and have established your normal cycle range, any major timing changes could be problematic. Missing a few cycles when you aren’t pregnant? That’s something to discuss with your doctor. Bleeding outside of your regular period, or during sex? Another issue to discuss with a medical caregiver. Changes in your cycle often indicate that your body is under stress; it’s important to figure out the source of that stress before other areas of your health are affected.

Pain

Normal: Mild discomfort during your period is normal, and should be easily managed with OTC medications. Standard cramps or period-related discomfort shouldn’t affect your day to day life.

Not normal: Pain that can’t be managed with drugstore medications is a sign of a problem. Pain that causes nausea and vomiting, should also be cause for concern, especially of the pain begins to radiate down your legs. Excessive pain could be an indication of endometriosis or adenomyosis, conditions that are difficult to diagnose if women aren’t forthcoming about their symptoms.

Pelvic pain experienced outside of your period is also not ‘normal’ and should be investigated further, as it is a potential indication of fibroids, non-cancerous tumors that develop in and around your uterus.

Thankfully, treatment is available for almost all the conditions that make your period “not normal.” But the only way to receive help is to speak up, so discuss any menstrual cycle changes with your doctor as soon as you identify an issue!

5 Fibroid Myths to Forget Right Now

If you’ve been diagnosed with uterine fibroids, people will likely inundate you with information and opinions. Unfortunately, not everything you hear will actually be true. To help you sift through the info overload, here are 10 common thoughts about fibroid tumors that are totally and completely untrue: 

MYTH #1: Fibroids are cancers.

Because they are tumors, many patients worry that their fibroids are a sign of cancer. Fortunately, that’s completely untrue! Fibroids are benign growths; they aren’t linked to uterine cancer. They can be painful and cause disruptive symptoms like pelvic pain and heavy bleeding, but they are not typically a life-threatening condition.  

MYTH #2: Women with fibroids need a hysterectomy

For years, women with fibroids were told that hysterectomy was their only treatment option. Today, however, that is no longer the case. Myomectomies can be performed to surgically remove individual tumors, or women may seek Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), a minimally invasive option. This nonsurgical procedure is performed on an outpatient basis; it treats fibroids while preserving a woman’s uterus.

MYTH #3: Women with fibroids can’t get or stay pregnant.

While some fibroids may affect your ability to conceive, or may complicate your pregnancy and delivery process, others will not have any impact on your fertility. If you have fibroids and are having a hard time conceiving, however, seeking fibroid treatment may improve your odds of starting a family.

MYTH #4: Removed fibroids don’t come back

While we’d like to believe that women will only require one round of fibroid treatments, this is not always the case. For some women, fibroids will recur after an initial treatment. For this reason, surgery may not be an ideal treatment option. While many women solve their fibroid issues after one round of UFE, those who require additional treatment will at least not be dealing with multiple invasive surgeries.

MYTH #5: All women with fibroids have heavy periods and pelvic pain.

With fibroids, as with life, every woman is different. Some women with fibroids will present with these common symptoms. Others will experience no symptoms whatsoever, and may in fact be surprised by their diagnoses. Still others will face constipation, frequent urination or other issues. What’s key is to see your OBGYN for regular exams, and to bring up any side effect or symptom that is unusual for your individual body.

Surprise: Fibroid Surgery Doesn’t Help Fertility

Fibroid tumors are non-cancerous growths that develop in and on a woman’s uterus. While not a life threatening condition, because of their location, they can cause many negative symptoms, including problems with fertility, menstruation, and your bowel and bladder function. Hysterectomy procedure

Women who have fibroids but still want to have children are often told surgery is their only option. The surgical removal of a fibroid tumor (myomectomy) was thought to be a woman’s best option if she wanted to get pregnant. Now, new research is changing everything. 

Myomectomies Don’t Improve Fertility

A new review in the Cochrane journal says: “one study…that examined the effect of myomectomy on fertility and it found no significant benefit.” In other words, even if you have surgery to remove your fibroid tumors, your chances of getting or staying pregnant may not improve. 

Of course, this is just one stud; more research is needed to really prove the effect of fibroid surgery on fertility. It does, however, mean that women should carefully consider all their treatment options before rushing into surgery just to preserve their fertility dreams. 

UFE and Pregnancy

Patients with fibroids  who hope to get pregnant may also consider uterine fibroid embolization, a minimally invasive procedure that effectively kills fibroids by cutting off their blood supply. Many patients wishing to avoid myomectomy want to know if they can become pregnant after uterine fibroid embolization. There have been reports of many successful pregnancies in patients after UFE. Many studies show that fertility rates and miscarriage rates in UFE patients are no different than patients of the same age with fibroids who have had no treatment. That being said, patients may be better off having a myomectomy if they are a good candidate and are willing to undergo surgery.

Although the findings are not clear cut, a few studies have shown that pregnancy complications may be slightly more common after UFE compared with myomectomy. These pregnancy complications can include pre-term labor and pregnancy induced hypertension, also known as pre eclampsia. UFE might still be an option in patients who are not good candidates for myomectomy or who do not want to have surgery. All this will be especially true if it turns out that myomectomy really can’t improve your fertility. 

Why You Need to Address Heavy Periods

When you’re dealing with uterine fibroids, your menstrual flow can become very heavy. Your periods may also last longer than the typical 7 day window. Obviously, this can be uncomfortable and, at times, inconvenient. But if you’re thinking that you should just deal with the annoyance, think again. As it turns out, heavy periods can actually affect other areas of your health. 

How Do I Know if My Periods Are Abnormal?

It’s easy to say that a heavy period could be cause for concern, but it can be difficult to quantify what “heavy” really means. Flow varies from woman to woman, so any major change could be problematic. As a general rule of thumb, however, excessively heavy bleeding is defined as: 

  • Less than 21 days between your periods (longer than 35 days between cycles is also unusual, but this would not be considered a problem of excess bleeding)
  • Periods that last longer than 7 days
  • Passing large clots during your period (anything bigger than the size of a quarter warrants a discussion with your doctor)
  • Losing more than 80 cc of blood (of course, no one expects you to actually measure your blood loss, but if you’re soaking through super tampons or pads in an hour or less, chances are you’re losing too much blood.)

My Period is Too Heavy – What Do I Do Now?

If you think that your periods are too heavy, talk to your doctor right away. Make an appointment with your gyno, even if it’s not time for your annual exam. Here’s why: heavy periods can lead to anemia, a condition that sets in when you don’t have enough iron in your blood. Anemia needs to be addressed immediately, because it can affect your body’s ability to carry oxygen to your extremities. Over time, it can also lead to iron deficiency which, in turn, can affect the body’s bone marrow response. Additionally, anemia can cause symptoms like fatigue, weakness, dizziness, pain, headaches, cold hands and feet, chest pain and even heart attacks. 

Once you mention heavy bleeding to your doctor, he or she will likely suggest an anemia screening, to make sure you’re staying ahead of the issue. But it’s also important to try and determine the cause of your heavy bleeding, or else your continued blood loss will likely keep you in an anemic state. 

Fibroids and Heavy Periods

Uterine fibroids  can develop within the uterine lining (submucosal), the uterine muscle (intramural) or outside the uterine lining (subserosal.) Submucosal fibroids may increase the area of the lining, which causes you to bleed more when it is shed each month. These fibroids may also hinder your body’s ability to stop bleeding once it starts.

Intramural fibroids can increase the blood flow that reaches your uterus, and can also expand the size of your uterine cavity, thereby increasing bleeding.

If fibroids are the cause of your heavy menstrual flow, you will need to treat your fibroids in order to stop the excessive bleeding. Be sure and discuss all your treatment options, both surgical and minimally invasive, when deciding how best to address your fibroids and heavy mentrual flow. 

 

 

What African American Women Must Know About Fibroids

There is a common health condition in this country affecting as many as 80 percent of adult African American women. It can drastically affect quality of life, causing pain, excessive bleeding and even affecting fertility. And these women are, all too often, not given sufficient information about their treatment options! 

Fibroids: A Common Problem

The condition we’re discussing is uterine fibroids, fleshy, non-cancerous tumors that develop in, on or around a woman’s uterus. While the reasons why aren’t entirely clear, fibroids are three times as common in African American populations as in Caucasian ones.

Unfortunately, many of these women are denied appropriate fibroid care. They are told to undergo hysterectomies—the complete removal of a woman’s uterus—to cure their fibroids. And, while a hysterectomy will eliminate a woman’s fibroid problems, it can cause a whole range of new health problems, aside from immediate infertility. Studies have shown that hysterectomies, especially in women under 40, can lead to incontinence, loss of sex drive, depression, obesity issues and cardiac problems later in a woman’s life.

While that fact is scary enough, the scarier fact is this: hysterectomy is not the only option for women seeking relief from fibroid symptoms. There are surgeries that remove the tumors while keeping the uterus in tact (myomectomy.) And, even more excitingly, there are non-surgical procedures that can cut off blood flow to a fibroid, effectively killing it, without forcing a woman to deal with hospital stays or extended down time. Known as Uterine Fibroid Embolization, the treatment is a wonderful option for women seeking to avoid the expense and risks of a more invasive surgical procedure. The only problem is: many women aren’t even told about this option.

#FibroidFix

That’s where health care activism has to step in and make a difference. Interventional radiologists like Dr. Fox and Dr. Hardee are fighting to help all women improve their access to health care by spreading the word about UFE. We believe that women should be told about all available treatment options so they can make informed healthcare decisions. And we want your help in this mission. Share your fibroid stories (and info on alternatives to hysterectomy) with the #FibroidFix and help us get women’s health care issue trending!

5 Surprising Reasons You Always Have to Pee

Does it ever feel like you spend all your time running to or searching for the restrooms? If you’re peeing all the time, and you’re not sure why, here are five potential causes that may be to blame: 

1. Pregnancy

It’s a cliché that almost always proves true: pregnant women always have to pee. Why? As your uterus expands in order to accommodate your growing baby, it puts more pressure on your bladder. And it stands to reason, therefore, that the more pregnant you are, the more frequent those trips to the bathroom will become.  

2. Juvenile Diabetes

While not every kid who pees a lot will be diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, frequent urination (and bed wetting) can be a symptom of undiagnosed diabetes. When diabetes is the cause of your bathroom trips, you’ll likely release a lot of urine on each occasion.

3. Urinary Tract Infections

What’s a sure sign that you’re suffering from a UTI? A frequent urge to pee, even if you’ve just gone to the bathroom. Though you may not pass much urine, what does come through will feel uncomfortable, often causing you to experience a burning sensation.

4. Over hydration

We have all been told the importance of drinking lots of water, and one obvious side effect of this kind of effort will be frequent urination. A less obvious (and less frequent) occurrence? Drink too much water and you may become extremely ill, as a large intake of water in a short amount of time can overwhelm your kidneys, causing you to develop a potentially life-threatening condition known as hyponatremia.

5. Fibroids

Fibroids are muscle-based, non-cancerous tumors that develop in, on or on top of your uterus. They are extremely common, especially in women of African-American descent, and they can cause a host of symptoms, including heavy menstrual cycles and—you guessed it—frequent urination. Why do fibroids make you pee so much? Like a growing baby, fibroids can expand the size and reach of your uterus (sometimes to the size of four month pregnancy!), placing the same kind of pressure on your uterus as does a growing fetus.

New Health Warning About Popular Fibroid Drug

Health Canada has released a new health warning about Allergan’s uterine fibroid medication, Esmya (also known as Fibristal.) According to the warning, the medication can cause a rare but serious liver injury. 

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that develop inside, on or in between the layers of a woman’s uterus. Esmya is an oral medication intended to manage some fibroid symptoms, particularly heavy bleeding during your period. Prior to this warning, Esmya was prescribed for women who were of child-bearing age and didn’t want to undergo surgery, or for women who were awaiting surgery and wanted to mitigate their symptoms. While the drug has been widely prescribed in Canada and Europe, the FDA here in the U.S. has declined approval of the drug for use in this country. 

Because of the newly-discovered potential for liver injury, doctors are  being told to change the ways in which they use the medication. Now, it’s only recommended for women who want to have children. Even for these women, doctors should only prescribe one course of the drug–refills aren’t recommended. And, of course, no woman with a history of liver problems should ever take the medication. 

Other Alternatives to Fibroid Surgery

It’s not surprising that many women want to avoid fibroid surgery. Whether opting for a myomectomy (surgical removal of the tumor) or a hysterectomy (removal of the entire uterus), surgery is a big deal. It typically comes with a hospital stay and a considerable recovery time. 

Given the potential for serious complications, however, medication shouldn’t necessarily be the solution for young women dealing with fibroid symptoms. In our Houston area office, we provide a minimally-invasive fibroid treatment with no down time and outpatient delivery. While it is not right for everyone, it is certainly a treatment option worth considering, since it offers a non-medicinal, non-surgical solution for fibroid sufferers. If you’re currently investigating fibroid treatment options, be sure to schedule a consultation with Dr. Fox or Dr. Hardee to learn whether Uterine Fibroid Embolization is the right option for you.  

Warning: Excess Weight Could Delay a Fibroid Diagnosis

Women with uterine fibroids typically experience symptoms like heavy or prolonged periods, weight gain, protruding bellies, constipation and pelvic pain. But what if you already experienced many of those symptoms because you were carrying extra weight? It would certainly make it harder to recognize an abnormal (but non-cancerous) growth in your uterus! UAE treatment for Adenomyosis

Missed Fibroid Symptoms

 

For one woman from Wales, that was exactly what happened. Tina Mathias, at her heaviest, weighed almost 340 pounds. She suffered from chronic back pain and constipation, but when she shared these symptoms with her doctor, they were considered a byproduct of her poor diet and excess weight. 

At the time, Tina assumed her doctors were correct. “My periods were normal which is why I didn’t think it was a problem with my reproductive system,”  she says. 

In the hopes of improving her health and alleviating her worst symptoms, Tina set out on a weight loss journey. She was extremely successful, dropping 182 pounds, but her problems didn’t resolve. 

“I’d lost so much weight and I thought I’d be healthier, but the pain in my lower back, sides and abdomen carried on,” she says. “Then it got so bad that I couldn’t get out of bed and I would wince if my husband touched me.” 

Still, Tina didn’t think her problems could be caused by fibroids. She simply continued eating healthfully, trying to lose more weight and hoping to feel better. 

 

Finding Answers

Finally, when Tina was extremely thin, she had a moment that put everything into perspective. 

“When I really slimmed down, my belly was still so large. I looked six months pregnant,” she says. “Someone in work asked me when the baby was due and that’s when I knew something really wasn’t right.”

Still, doctors didn’t immediately figure out what was ailing Tina. They attributed her constipation to a low calorie diet, and didn’t think to examine her for fibroids until sex with her husband became extremely painful. Finally, she was sent for a scan, and doctors discovered a nine-pound fibroid, made of muscle and fibrous tissue, that had likely been growing in her uterus for a decade or more!

It was now dangerously close to perforating her bowel, and doctors told her she needed a life-saving hysterectomy. Just 36 at the time, Tina was devastated but, since the tumor was so large and in such a dangerous location, she had no choice. Now 43, Tina has had to give up on her dreams of having a family, but she is living a happy, healthy and pain-free life. 

 

Recognizing Fibroid Symptoms

The saddest part of this story is that, had someone diagnosed Tina’s fibroid earlier on, she could have preserved her fertility. That’s why its important for women to know all of the symptoms of fibroids. Its crucial to recognize that, even if your periods are normal, you may still have a problem. You also need to be your own advocate: if your pain persists and your doctor insists its because of your weight, it’s not time to give up hope: it’s time to get a second opinion. The earlier you treat fibroids, the more options that will be available for your treatment.