Author: Houston Fibroids

Wear White July 1 for Equitable Health Care and Fibroid Awareness

It’s really hard to find equitable health care for black women with fibroids. In fact, 73 percent of Black women say their doctors never mention UFE, a minimally invasive fibroid treatment option. Even worse? Here’s a sad fact for July’s upcoming fibroid awareness month: one in five Black women believes her only fibroid treatment option is a hysterectomy. That’s a big problem, since this major surgery causes many adverse health effects, and is often not necessary to relieve fibroid symptoms.

These statistics reveal the treatment knowledge disparity that hurts women of color who have fibroids. And that’s something Kimberly Wilson, our Woman Crush Wednesday nominee, learned the hard way. But, after her healthcare struggle, she’s making it easier to find equal care for black women. And, together with efforts from other groups, Wilson is leveling the playing healthcare playing field. Which is why we’re sharing her story today, and naming her our #WCW, woman crush of the week.

Getting a Fibroid Diagnosis Kimberly Wilson demands equal fibroid care for black women

In 2017, Wilson was diagnosed with fibroids. But, even though she had many fibroid symptoms, getting that diagnosis was really hard. She told Essence magazine, “Over a period of six months, I visited four different providers—all of whom were White men. Two completely dismissed my pain and trauma, while the other two stated that a hysterectomy was my only option. It wasn’t until finding a Black physician—over 100 miles away, that I received the culturally competent care that I needed and deserved.”

After her experience, Wilson wanted to make it easier for women of color to access quality healthcare. And part of that, she realized, meant these women needed help finding culturally sensitive healthcare providers.

That’s when she created HUED, a website that connects patients with medical professionals that specifically understand their cultural, physical and mental-health needs. Her goal? To help people of color access healthcare providers they could trust. Physicians who would listen to their needs. And never dismiss their reports of painful symptoms.

Today, that platform is helping black women access equal fibroid care. And care for many other health conditions. So we applaud Wilson’s efforts. Plus, we’re happy to report, she’s not alone in this fight.

Equitable Health Care and Contraceptive Access

Taking hormonal birth control may help manage fibroid symptoms such as heavy periods. But we’ve learned that  Black women are less likely to talk about contraception with their healthcare providers, likely because so many have had negative interactions surrounding sexual health conversations with medical professionals. Plus, many women don’t have any or enough insurance to cover the cost of prescriptions or the time and disposable income to leave work and make their way to a provider’s office.

Luckily, there’s a new push to help Black women enjoy equitable health care with easier access to hormonal contraception. It’s called the “Free the Pill” campaign, and its focus is to create an over-the-counter form of birth control. In an interview with TheGrio, project director Victoria Nichols said, “The goal is to get a birth control pill over the counter in the United States that is affordable, covered by insurance and available to all ages.”

Say Goodbye Fibroids

Ultimately, birth control for fibroids can only manage symptoms. It can’t offer a lasting cure. So we’re glad that The White Dress Project, one of our favorite organizations, is also joining the fight. First, they’re asking all women to wear white on July first to raise fibroid awareness, Plus, they’ve partnered with Acessa Health Inc. on the Goodbye Fibroids initiative. It’s goal? To unite women, doctors and political leaders in raising awareness of and improving care for women living with fibroids.

They’ve made presentations at the Congressional Black Caucus’ Annual Legislative Conference. And they’ve spent time discussing how women of different races don’t receiving the same quality of fibroid care.

As Acessa Health CEO Kim Rodriguez noted, “Unfortunately, there is a well-established racial barrier to women receiving less invasive alternatives to hysterectomy.”

In other words, black women have a much higher risk of developing fibroids. But they are much less likely to receive information about the full range of fibroid treatment options. Especially about minimally invasive procedures like Uterine Fibroid Embolization.

The facts are clear (and upsetting.) Among women who treated their fibroids with hysterectomies, African American women were less likely to receive a minimally invasive surgery compared to white women. They were also 40% more likely to develop complications. And nearly three times as likely to have an extended hospital stay. Plus, three times as likely to die after their procedures.

While these are statistics for hysterectomies, they don’t even begin to explore other fibroid treatment options. Which likely means that women aren’t even being informed about hysterectomy alternatives. In other words, equal fibroid care for black women is still a distant dream.

Working to Create Equitable Health Care for Black Women with Fibroids

Tanika Gray Valbrun, founder of The White Dress Project, also spoke to the Black Caucus. She said, “As a community we need to begin to address and change the clear, systematic and structural defect within the US healthcare system. [It] disproportionately pushes women of color toward the most invasive option, which is hysterectomy.”

Of course, for Valbrun, this cause is very personal. As she recently shared on her platform at CNN.com, “I’ve heard tales of women with light periods—you know, the ones where you can play tennis or have brunch, like in a tampon commercial. But since I was 14, my menstrual cycles have been something to survive, not celebrate. And it was years until I found out the reason why: Just like my mother, I have uterine fibroids.”

Diagnosed later in life, the blows kept coming for Valbrun. When she and her new husband tried getting pregnant, her doctor said she had 27 fibroids, and “They advised me to look for a surrogate.” Now, fibroids can interfere with conception.  But Valbrun wasn’t willing to give up. Instead, she says, “I cried for days. Then I decided to get a second opinion.”

Luckily for Valbrun, at her next medical appointment, she learned, “there was still a chance” for her to conceive.  First, she removed those 27 fibroids via myomectomy. Five years later, she needed laparoscopic surgery to remove new growths. Recently, she chose to shave down an existing fibroid. And today she says, ” I’m still on my path to motherhood, and have experienced two failed embryo transfers. Now, with my uterus as clean as possible, we will try again.”

Coochie Conversations: Joining the call for Equitable Health Care with Fibroids

equitable health care for black women with fibroids

In 2012, Tanya Leake, a certified health coach, started experiencing disruptive symptoms when a small fibroid grew larger. She tried managing her symptoms with lifestyle changes, but she was still suffering. So she started researching her treatment options. And that’s when the trouble began.

Leake met with four different physicians. Three told her she would only find relief with a hysterectomy. And the fourth? That provider never followed up with her after receiving her scan results.

Luckily, Leake spoke with a friend about her desire to avoid a hysterectomy. That friend, she told NPR, helped her find a less invasive treatment option. And, in the wake of her experience, Leake launched Coochie Conversations, a series of small virtual gatherings dedicated to highlighting treatment options for various women’s health issues. She hopes this series will help women find ‘that friend’ who steers them toward equitable health care, And toward less invasive fibroid treatment options!

Help for Fibroids in Houston

As interventional radiologists in Houston, we stand with Leake, Wilson and Valbrun. We want all women to know their fibroid treatment options, and to keep their fertility options open. And we want black women to get equal care and attention from fibroid specialists.

To help that cause, we promote #FibroidFix. This is a campaign to make all women aware of all the available treatment options for fibroids. Particularly the ones that preserve their fertility and minimize the risk of surgical complications. Will you join us in spreading the word?

We invite you to reach out to us for more information about UFE. And we ask you to share this information with all your female friends. You’ll help us make better healthcare accessible to every woman in this country.

Sources: Essence Magazine, Acessa Health 

What’s the Danger in Heavy Periods?

Do heavy periods control your life? When it’s that time of the month, do you wonder how long you’ll be out of the house without access to a bathroom? Or worse, do you need to double up protection, using a backup pad for your tampon, so you don’t leak?

Yes, these considerations are all hassles. Heavy periods are annoying. They can get in the way of your daily activities. But did you know that abnormally heavy menstrual cycles can lead to more serious medical problems?

Why Heavy Bleeding is Dangerous

One potential side-effect of abnormal uterine bleeding (AUB) is anemia, when you don’t have enough red blood cells in your blood. If you have untreated anemia, you can even suffer organ damage!

Now, physical side effects aren’t your only concern with heavy periods. In fact, a recent study showed that this fibroid symptom could negatively affect women’s emotional and mental well-being. Specifically, this unusually heavy bleeding left women feeling fear, anxiety, and anger about their condition.

But how do you know if your bleeding is unusually heavy? For our purposes, you should talk to your doctor if you have to change your tampon or pad every hour. Or if you have symptoms like heavy overnight bleeding that stains your bedding. During a normal period, for comparison, you can expect to change your tampon or pad every three hours. And some women may even go longer, especially towards the end of the cycle.

Causes of Heavy Bleeding

Long, heavy periods are a symptom of fibroids, non-cancerous tumors that grow in or around your uterus. But a heavy menstrual cycle could also be a sign of Pelvic Congestion Syndrome (PCS), a condition that can also lead to varicose veins in your upper thighs or lower abdomen. With both PCS and fibroids, you’ll also have other shared symptoms. These include pelvic pain, pain after sex, constipation and painful period cramps. But with PCS, unlike fibroids, your pain is often worse at the end of the day, or after standing for a long time. And your risk for PCS goes up if you’ve had a baby, since giving birth puts pressure on your pelvic blood vessels.

Because heavy periods could be a sign of either of these conditions, it’s important to discuss all your symptoms with your doctor. Together, you can discover the cause of your AUB. And determine the best possible treatment plan.

Treating Heavy Bleeding

When AUB occurs for no apparent reason, certain types of birth control, like the Mirena IUD or the Nuva Ring, can help staunch the blood flow.Oral contraception and NSAIDs like ibuprofen may also help.

Unfortunately, Mirena has recently been linked to several adverse effects. The worst? It may cause pseudotumor cerebri, which is a rare neurological condition sometimes known as idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH). With this condition, you may develop headaches, ringing in your ears and even loss of vision. All of these symptoms could make you think you’ve got a brain tumor, which is why the condition’s name translates literally to false tumor.

Now, we have to note that Mirena’s been available for 20 years. In that time, there were less than 700 reports of IIH to the FDA. Still, 80% of IIH reports linked to Mirena were made in the last two years, suggesting tweaks in the device design may be dangerous.

Fibroid Linked AUB

Obviously, you’ll have to proceed with caution before using an IUD to treat unexplained heavy bleeding. If, however, AUB is a symptom of a different, underlying condition, relief will only come from treating the cause of the bleeding. Many women who experience abnormally heavy periods may actually have one or more fibroids (a fibroid is a non-cancerous growth that develops in a woman’s uterus, often causing AUB and other symptoms or side effects.)

The most important thing to remember is this. AUB is not a cause for embarrassment, but it something worth discussing with your doctor. Not only will starting the conversation simplify your daily period routines, it may also help you stave off dangerous blood loss and far more serious complications.

Sources: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 

Know Your 6 Fibroid Treatment Options

If you have uterine fibroids, it’s important to know your fibroid treatment options. Until recently, most women didn’t hear about choices. Instead, they were given hysterectomy or other surgeries to treat fibroids and other causes of pelvic pain. But at least 80% of women with fibroids want to avoid removing their uterus. And we know there are better alternatives to a hysterectomy. Which is why we want women  to know all their fibroid treatment options.

Continue reading “Know Your 6 Fibroid Treatment Options”

Rapper Eve, Infertility and Fibroids: What You Need to Know

Do infertility and fibroids go together? That’s a very good question Of course, for women who haven’t completed their families, a fibroid diagnosis can be scary. So one of the first questions we hear from patients is often, “Can I still have a baby with fibroid tumors?”

The answer is, unfortunately, not completely clear cut. Without treatment, some women still won’t be able to get pregnant. But many women will have trouble conceiving without some kind of fibroid treatment. And that’s just the beginning of the story.

Eve’s Story: A Long Journey to Pregnancy eve overcomes infertility and fibroids

While rap icon Eve and her husband Maximillion Cooper now have a gorgeous baby (see pic at right) their journey wasn’t easy. You see, Eve told Tamron Hall, fibroids got in the way of her pregnancy for far too long.

After several failed rounds of IVF, she says, “I ended up going to a specialist. They told me, ‘I don’t care: you can do 20 rounds [of IVF], you can have all the sex you want – you’re never going to get pregnant because you have so many fibroids that your uterus actually already thinks it’s already pregnant.”

Even worse, she said her teen years were filled with heavy periods and other warning symptoms. Yet she never received a fibroids diagnosis until this late in the game. Luckily, she figured out something was wrong and got her healthy baby! But other women need to know more about fibroids and pregnancy, so they can also get a happy ending.

Infertility and Fibroids Size

If fibroids stay small, or develop in places where fertility isn’t affected, you may get pregnant without problems. But if your fibroids get large, they may physically block your egg from joining up with male sperm.

Then, even if the sperm and egg can join together, a large fibroid could stop the new embryo from implanting in your uterine lining. And, even if an embryo does implant, an untreated tumor can negatively impact your developing fetus.

So, that’s the bad news…at least part of it. Because fibroids can also affect women’s fertility in other, less obvious, ways.

How Fibroids Change Your Body

Fibroid Treatment After Pregnancy

While some changes are subtle, others may cause big problems for your health. Some women experience cervix shape changes due to fibroids. If that happens to you, it can limit sperm entering your uterus. And that’s not all. These growths can also change the shape of your uterus. Which could decrease the number of places where an embryo can successfully implant. Finally, can weaken your uterine cavity lining. They can also decrease the amount of blood reaching a growing fetus. And both of these issues could lead to miscarriage.

Fibroids Don’t Have to End Your Fertility Journey

With all the tolls fibroids can take on your reproductive system, there is still good news: many women who have been diagnosed with fibroids go on to have one or more children. While many women used to automatically undergo hysterectomy (complete removal of the uterus) after learning they had fibroids, these days there are many fertility-preserving options.

Many women who plan on having children will choose to have a myomectomy (surgically remove the uterine fibroid.) Other women will choose to have a less invasive procedure, like Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), that shrinks their fibroids by permanently cutting off the non-cancerous tumor’s blood supply. Although the research is not conclusive, many women who have UFE have been able to move on and complete their families in the way they want.

infertility and fibroids treatment

If you’re choosing UFE vs Myomectomy, talk to your doctor and our specialists. That way, you can fully understand the impact of your choice. Also, you may benefit from the infographic at right, reposted from the New England Journal of Medicine.

A fibroid diagnosis can certainly be scary, especially if you aren’t done having children, but in this case, knowledge really is power. Getting informed about all your options and choosing the best solution for your family will go a long way towards keeping fibroids from derailing your reproductive plans.

Ready to learn more? We’re here to help you! Just reach out and request an appointment with our fibroid experts in Houston. We can help you decide if you’re a good candidate for UFE, and how that may affect your fertility journey.

Why Do We Get Cramps? 5 Reasons That AREN’T Your Period

Have you ever wondered why do we get cramps? Well, you probably expect at least a little cramping during your  period. But when those painful cramps show up at other times of the month? It can be scary…and confusing! To help clear up all your questions, let’s explore a few reasons that explain why do we get cramps when it’s not that time of the month!

1. Constipation

When you’re backed up, a stomach ache isn’t surprising. What you may not realize is that constipation can also make you cramp! And that cramping won’t be limited to your period: it can appear at any time of the month!  One easy way to beat constipation? Drink tons of H20 (try infusing it with fresh fruit if plain old water just isn’t your thing.) The good news? Even if constipation isn’t the cause of your cramps, only good can co

me from upping your liquid intake.

2. Why Do We get Cramps? Fibroids

Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that develop on the walls of the uterus.  Depending on their size and location, fibroids can cause a whole host of symptoms including pain, heavy periods and–you guessed it–cramps, even when you’re not menstruating. Thankfully, there are numerous fibroid treatments available, many of which are non-invasive and don’t require surgery!

3. Cysts

Cysts, like fibroids, are non-cancerous growths. The difference? Cysts are fluid filled, but fibroids are muscular. Plus, fibroids form from within your uterine wall, while cysts develop on your ovaries. Now, we’re not sure why women develop fibroids. But we know that cyst development is linked to your monthly cycle. Also, cysts and fibroids cause different symptoms. Because fibroids can interfere with your monthly periods and your urinary function. (They could also make it harder for you to get pregnant.)

But do you want to know one symptom fibroids and cysts have in common? They can both cause you to experience cramps outside of your period. (Though, with cysts, you’ll likely experience pain on one side of your abdomen. While, with fibroids, the cramps could hit anywhere.)

Still, like fibroids, you can address cysts with a range of treatment options. And both fibroids and cysts can be diagnosed with an ultrasound in your doctor’s office. After that, you’ll be guided for follow-up care with the right specialists.

4. Why Do We Get Cramps? Sexually Transmitted Infections

Scarily enough, the answer could be yes! Infections like Chlamydia, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), and Gonorrhea can all cause abdominal pain, and other symptoms like cramps. No one wants to contract an STI, but knowing that cramps are an STI symptom is very helpful! That’s especially true because many infections go undetected for long periods of time. If there’s a chance you’ve had STI exposure, and are experiencing non-menstrual cramping, get tested in your doctor’s office so you can begin treatment and avoid transmitting the infection to a current or future partner.

5. Running

When some women suddenly increase their training miles or distance, they experience painful, period-like cramps. How could that be? Well, when you run long or hard, you put lots of pressure on your core muscles. As a result, your abs and pelvic floor muscles could get overworked to the point of cramping. If this seems to be the cause of your cramps between periods, rest should relieve your symptoms. But speak to your doctor if this becomes a persistent problem when you run, as it could mean you have muscular imbalances. And that could leave you vulnerable to injuries.

Not sure why you’re cramping between your period? Worried it could mean fibroids? Come in for a comprehensive evaluation with our Houston fibroid specialists. Using our diagnostic ultrasound, we can help determine why do we get cramps, and discuss treatment options if fibroids are the cause.

 

Sources: healthline, webmd.com

Can I Shrink My Fibroids Naturally?

If you’ve been diagnosed with uterine growths, you may wonder, “Can I shrink my fibroids naturally?” Now, today, we’ll explore some natural remedies for fibroid symptoms. But we need you to know that none will completely get rid of your non-cancerous tumors. So we’ll also share information on minimally invasive fibroid treatment.

What are Fibroids?

Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that develop in or on your uterus. They come in different sizes, ranging from 1mm to over 10 cm in diameter (4 inches). (Some women have even larger growths.)

Smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue make up these growths. While some women don’t experience any fibroid symptoms, others suffer with heavy period pain, painful sex and more. Now, uterine fibroids affect the don’t increase your risk of uterine cancer. But they can interfere with your ability to conceive or carry a baby. Plus, they can hurt. So many women want to shrink or remove these growths.

Can I Shrink My Fibroids Naturally? I shrink my fibroids naturally

Many women prefer natural treatment options for their fibroids. Below are some natural ways to manage fibroid symptoms. Keep in mind that most won’t shrink your fibroids, though they may minimize your symptoms.

Losing Weight

Fat cells produce and hold on to estrogen. And fibroid growth seems linked to excess estrogen in your body. As a result, reaching and maintaining a healthy weight could help shrink your fibroids. Or at least prevent future growth.

Watching Your Diet

In addition to losing weight, adding some food and avoiding others can help your fibroid symptoms. That’s why it’s important to watch what you eat when you’re living with fibroids. And to shrink fibroids naturally, you may want to follow this fibroid-friendly diet.

Adding Vitamins and Minerals

Studies suggest you can help prevent fibroid growth with calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. And if you already have fibroids, taking vitamins D and A supplements could help you shrink fibroids naturally. Finally, taking magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids could help relieve period pain.

Can I Shrink My Fibroids Naturally? Self-Care Options

While you’re watching your diet and adding supplements, you can manage your symptoms to feel better. This could mean getting more exercise. (Check out these top workouts for women with fibroids.)  Plus, when pain is acute, try placing warm compresses on your back and stomach. Consider relaxing in a warm bath, seeking out a massage, or trying these yoga moves to relieve period and fibroid pain.

Can I Shrink My Fibroids Naturally? Less Invasive Treatments Funding fibroid research to narrow the Black woman's healthcare gap

Many of the methods we just reviewed could reduce fibroid size or symptoms. Still, they won’t completely eliminate your growths. To do that, you’ll need to explore your fibroid treatment options.

If you’re looking for natural fibroid remedies, we’re guessing you want to avoid surgery. So hysterectomy or myomectomy likely won’t be your first choice. Need a less invasive option? Uterine Fibroid Embolization is the answer for many women.

What is UFE?

UFE, or uterine fibroid embolization, is a minimally-invasive alternative to hysterectomy or myomectomy. It treats and shrinks uterine fibroids, with a success rate of about 85%. Most women experience dramatic symptom improvement afterward. Plus, their fibroid size shrinks and most tumors completely disappear. Learn more here.

Am I a Candidate for UFE?

Every woman is different. And not everyone will benefit from UFE. But if you have fibroid symptoms, and want to shrink fibroids in a more natural, non-surgical way, this could be a great option. Remember, though, you can’t have UFE while you’re pregnant, so you may need to wait a while if you’re currently expecting.

If you’ve been asking, can I shrink my fibroids naturally and need less invasive support, we’re here to help. Schedule a consultation with our Houston area fibroid specialists today, and we’ll answer all your treatment questions.

Sources

Responsum for Fibroids

What’s the Best Birth Control for Fibroids?

When you are choosing birth control with fibroids, you may need to make a change. Even if your current birth control has been working for years, your fibroid symptoms might mean it’s time for a change. Many women with fibroids choose oral birth control or IUDs. But we know that every woman is different. So it’s important to talk to your doctor about which birth control is best for your needs. And to ask the question, what’s the best birth control for fibroids?

An IUD or birth control with fibroids can help heavy periods

What’s the Best Birth Control for Fibroids: What Doesn’t Work

How can you tell if you need to switch your birth control? If you’re experiencing heavy periods, you may want to try a hormone-based birth control option. These include birth control pills and IUDs. Many women find relief from heavy bleeding while they explore fibroid treatment options.

Now, if you have painful cramps, you may want to consider an option such as NuvaRing, which specifically targets this fibroid and PMS symptom.

Keep in mind that you can’t take hormonal birth control if you have a high risk of blood clots or stroke. Also some women with diabetes, high blood pressure and certain cancers should avoid hormonal birth control. But if you want temporary relief from fibroid symptoms, and don’t have other health concerns, talk to your doctor about switching birth control.

The Danger in Birth Control

Remember: not every birth control is safe to use. Essure was a permanent birth control device that caused uterine and fallopian tube fibroids. Manufactured by Bayer, the nickel and polyester coil, inserted into a woman’s fallopian tubes, stayed on the market for year. This was a problem since scar tissue formed over the metal coils, permanently blocking your uterus and making pregnancy impossible.

Since it’s 2002 FDA approval, Essure was controversial. For years, Essure users reported devastating side effects. These included cysts and fibroids, plus gastrointestinal, neurological, mental health and blood health complications. In fact, its approval and 2017, women filed over 26,000 Essure complaints with the FDA.

Birth Control with Fibroid Triggers Banned

In spite of all these complaints, Bayer didn’t admit that Essure was unsafe or ineffective. They pulled it off the U.S. market in 2018. But Bayer insisted that the decision was because of declining sales. They never admitted Essure caused major health concerns. Bayer even complained that “inaccurate and misleading” information about Essure contributed to the sales drop!

Even though Essure is no longer available in the U.S., Bayer will likely be dealing with the effects of this device for a long time. Thousands of women have sued Bayer for the devastating Essure side-effects they’ve experienced. Bayer’s response? The company says it “remains strongly committed to women’s health where we have long been a leader. We recognize that women want safe and effective options that best meet their individual needs, and we are committed to continuing our investment, innovation and leadership in this important area of health.” Bayer also plans to enroll women in post-market surveillance programs, and has said it will keep updating the FDA with any relevant health findings from the study.

Other Dangerous Birth Control Options

Recently, we’ve learned about our potential health complications linked to common methods of birth control. First, there’s Depo Provera, a birth control option selected by at least 2 million women in the US and over 74 million around the world. Some providers choose to prescribe these injections to women with fibroids because they may prevent fibroid growth when given as an intramuscular injection. It can suppress your uterine lining as well, which could reduce heavy menstrual bleeding.

While this shot can also prevent unwanted pregnancy, it may give women many things they aren’t looking for. Potential side effects include facial and body hair growth, weight gain, bone density loss, blood clotting disorders, bleeding disorders and an increased risk for depression, breast cancer and even HIV.

Other forms of birth control may also involve increased risk. Just a while ago, we revealed that the Mirena IUD leaves some women with anxiety, vision loss, migraines, vision loss and other concerning symptoms. Clearly, you must carefully weigh your birth control options and talk to your doctor before starting a course of medication or receiving any injections or implants.

Here at Houston fibroids, we commit to women’s health by helping you find fibroid relief. If you want to discuss your options about birth control with fibroids, we’re here to give you guidance. And if you want to explore minimally invasive fibroid treatment, for lasting symptom relief, schedule a consultation today!

Sources: Natural WomanhoodInsider Health 

Learn Your Risk Factors for Fibroids, Plus Diagnosis and Effect Info

When it comes to your health, it’s important to know your risk factors for fibroids–plus what it means for your health if you get this diagnosis. Many women have heard about fibroids (benign tumors that develop in or on a woman’s uterus) but don’t know much more than the name. Here is our quick cheat sheet for really understanding these tumors:

What are Your Risk Factors for Fibroids?

Before we get started, we have to be clear: we still don’t the exact reason why women get fibroids. But, thanks to recent studies, we do have a clearer picture of what raises women’s fibroid risk.

First, we know that race plays a major role in your fibroid risk. While any woman can develop fibroids, the ones at highest risk: have a family history, are Black or Hispanic, and/or have a higher Body Mass Index (BMI). In fact, according to a recent study in the BJOG Journal, black women have a two-threefold higher fibroid risk. That’s why about 70% of black women develop fibroids, according to the study. And it may be why European women have a lower fibroid risk than women in the U.S.: the racial mix in populations is very different.

Still, as more Caucasian women present with elevated BMIs, their fibroid risk has also increased. And we know, thanks to this study, 11 other factors that increase your fibroid risk. These include your age (risk decreases as you get older), premenopausal state, hypertension, family history and the time since your last birth. (Having more full-term pregnancies seems to decreases your fibroid risk. Breastfeeding could also impact your fibroid risk. That’s because your ovarian hormones decrease when you nurse. ) Smoking or consuming certain food additives or soybean milk may also increase your chances of getting fibroids.

In some cases, the use of oral contraceptives or the injectable contraceptive depot medroxyprogesterone acetate increased your fibroid risk. That’s not necessarily surprising, since we know that two things make fibroids grow: hormones, especially estrogen, and blood supply.

But, while some forms of birth control increase your fibroid risk, we can also often control fibroid growth with birth control pills. And, we can shrink the tumors by cutting off their blood supply using a procedure called UFE (uterine fibroid embolization.)

Environmental Risks for Fibroid Growth

Recently, we’ve learned something about fibroid risk and your environment from this study in Fertility and Sterility. When pregnant women expecting daughters were exposed to endocrine disrupting chemicals, the babies seemed to have a higher rate of developing fibroids. While researchers aren’t sure why, it seems that these hormones change the developing uterus in ways that make fibroid growth more likely.

What are endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs)? Well, they can be man-made or natural. Either way, these are chemicals that interfere with your endocrine system. As a result, they can harm your developmental reproductive, neurological and immune health. BPA and phthalates are some of the best-known EDCs. But many others exist. And now we can say that early exposure ups your fibroid risk, as well as your risk for diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, reproductive tract disorders, and neurodevelopmental disorders.

Genetic Fibroid Risks

We are constantly discovering other fibroid risk factors, and recently, scientists from the University of Helsinki uncovered a genetic link. After monitoring 728 women with 2263 tumors, researchers grouped their fibroids by genetic variants.

For most women, these fibroids fell neatly into one of three. But a number of the fibroids didn’t fit into previously identified categories. Instead, they showed variations that cells’ histone activity. (Histones help shape and control genes.activity.)

After seeing this variation, the researchers discovered an inherited fibroid risk. Women with certain genetic mutations have a higher risk of developing tumors.  As a result, with more research, women with these mutations could receive counseling and regular fibroid screening. In that way, it could be easier to detect and diagnose any developing growths in their earliest stages.

New Genetic Test for Fibroids: If My Mother Had Fibroids Will I Get Them?

A new study in Human Genetics identified certain gene combinations that point towards your risk factors for fibroids. Having highlighted this grouping, doctors could screen patients for these genes. Then, they could avoid delaying a fibroid diagnosis. So that women wouldn’t have to suffer for years without relief.

After studying the test results of almost 500 women with fibroids, researchers compared their genetic markers to women without these growths. Here’s what they found. There are 30 specific genetic chromosomal locations that can be linked to an increased fibroid development risk. Now that we know their connection, if your mother or grandmother had fibroids, you can ask doctors to screen you for these markers. Then, if you have any, you may reach a fibroid diagnosis faster if you start displaying any symptoms.

How Can I Confirm my Fibroid Diagnosis? heavy periods change your life

If you are experiencing fibroid symptoms like heavy periods, pelvic pain, incontinence or constipation, your doctor may check you for fibroids. Usually, you’ll be diagnosed with a pelvic exam and a pelvic sonogram. You may need a transvaginal sonogram to determine if the fibroid has affected your uterine lining.

As soon as you’ve been diagnosed, you’ll need to consider your treatment options. And remember that you do have options: not all fibroid diagnoses will end in surgery. In fact, there are minimally invasive fibroid treatments that can help you find relief. But the option you choose will largely depend on the type of symptoms you’re currently experiencing.

How will Fibroids Impact my Life?

Once you know you have fibroids, you have lots of options. If you aren’t bothered by symptoms, you may just monitor the tumor(s). With fibroids that are small, birth control, diet and exercise may keep them from causing you pain. But if pregnancy is important to you, the location of your fibroids will also be important. Fibroids that grow in the uterine cavity or block the fallopian tubes may affect your fertility.

If symptoms or infertility send you in search of relief, it’s important to research all your treatment options. While some doctors may recommend surgery (myomectomy or hysterectomy), we like to explore less invasive options. To learn more about non-surgical fibroid treatments schedule a consult today with our Houston area fibroid experts.

Sources: International Journal of Fertility and SterilityBJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 

4 Ways to Score Period Pain Relief

Do you need period pain relief now? Or do you want to stop period pain? You’re not alone! Many women with fibroids suffer from extremely painful periods. But thanks to newly-developed hi-tech patches, special stretching techniques, plus more emerging efforts, theirs and other women’s menstrual pain may finally be a thing of the past.

Period Pain Relief: Natural Options

If you’re looking for quick, non-invasive period relief, try these yoga stretches, recently recommended by Dr Alicia Jeffrey-Thomas, a pelvic floor therapist. Her top suggestions? Cycle through Child’s pose, Pigeon,
Cat/cow stretches and Spinal circles, before ending with your legs up on the wall. Be sure to hold each pose
for one minute, alternating between five-second inhalations and exhalations.

Now, if you have fibroids, these stretches alone may not offer enough pain relief. But they’re certainly worth a try, as are these yoga poses for fibroid relief. But if you need more help, keep reading for more tips on how to help period cramps.

Diet Changes that Bring Period Pain Relief

In some cases, adding certain foods can offer period pain relief by helping inflammation or reducing uterine muscle contractions. Adding omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the intensity of your painful period. And you can find this naturally in fish, nuts and seeds.

Next, add leafy greens since they’re packed with magnesium, which can lower your prostaglandin levels to reduce cramps. Throw in some vitamin b6-rich poultry to boost your serotonin and dopamine levels. (Both neurotransmitters can help relieve pain.)

Now, make sure you’ve got enough iron. (Especially if you have heavy periods, since they can lower your iron levels dangerously.) Finally, check your vitamin E, since getting enough can help avoid excessive blood loss during your period. And grab some dark chocolate while you’re at it. This sweet treat contains magnesium and polyphenols, which reduce inflammation in your body!

Hi Tech Cramps Relief to Stop Period Pain pain from uterine fibroids

The Allay is an ultra-thin patch you wear on your stomach. It pulses 1,000 times a second, delivering a small electric current through a wire loop. That current then produces an undetectable magnetic field into the tissue of your abdomen. The field gets your cells to pump out any excess fluid. And that helps your body fight the bloating, swelling and pain that often accompany your period.

You can wear the patch for five full, 24-hour days before you have to remove it and recharge it’s battery. For most women, that will cover the most painful part of your period, although fibroids can also make your period longer and heavier.

Still, in trials, the patch has been shown to reduce women’s pain levels by as much as 70%. That’s a big deal if period pain is dragging you down while you await fibroid treatment.

Similar Devices On the Market

The Livia is also a wearable patch that targets period pain with electrical pulses. Basically, those pulses seem to distract your central nervous system so it’s distracted from pain signals. Plus, it can stimulate your endorphins, which can help fight pain. So it busts your worst cramps in two different ways.

User feedback notes that you have to charge the Livia for 12 hours before use. It can also be a little tricky to place the usable pads in the right spot. (And the $225 price stage may be steep.) But, three separate clinical trials proved it’s effectiveness at fighting period pain. So it may be a good option while we wait to see what happens with Allay (see below.) Or while you explore permanent fibroid relief.

Product Awaits Further Trials

Although some women have already tested the effectiveness of Allay, more trials are currently underway. Currently, 60 women who suffer from period pain (dysmenorrhea) are participating in a two-month trial at the University of Birmingham.

The Allay reportedly reduces period pain levels by 31 per cent as soon as the first day you wear it! And 77 % of women wearing the Allay had at least some reduction in period pain. Only 14% of women who used other pain-relief methods experienced relief.

Currently Available Products

One Canadian company, Somedays, already has a full line of products designed to stop period pain. Currently, they offer four categories of relief products. There are heat and bath products to relieve cramps. And they have topical and edible products that help with muscle recovery which, according to their company’s research, helped relieve period pain.

Even better? The Vancouver, Canada based team keeps testing and trying out new products. So they expect to launch new products this fall. According to founder Lux Perry, “80% of people with periods…report having moderate to severe pain during their cycle. That’s like sitting on the sidelines for 10 entire years for some of us. If you believe that people with periods and predominantly women (because this is very much a gender equity issue) deserve to have the opportunity to actively participate in their lives then you believe in our mission.”

Well, Luz, we do believe in your mission. And we know that when your period pain is caused by fibroids, treating your tumors will offer you a more permanent solution to painful menstrual cycles. If you are ready to get started, contact our office and find out if you are a good candidate for our minimally invasive treatment options.

 

 

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