Author: Houston Fibroids

Help for Painful Sex and the Emotional Cost of Fibroids

Do you need help for painful sex? If you have fibroid tumors, sexual intercourse might hurt. Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors. They come in different sizes, and can also form in different portions or layers of the uterus. If your fibroids develop near your cervix, they can make certain sexual positions incredibly painful. You may feel like avoiding sex entirely. And, in some cases, those fibroids near your cervix may cause post-intercourse bleeding. Female with Fibroids

All of these effects are challenging. But there’s good news. First of all, certain positions can help. And, science is working on more treatments for painful sex. This could eliminate the problem entirely, and not just for women with fibroids.

Sexual Positions that Relieve Fibroid Pain

When you have fibroids, remember that sex isn’t only about penetration. You can still enjoy other intimate connections. But you can also choose positions which limit depth of penetration. By doing so, you’ll avoid pressure on fibroids near your cervix, which should limit pain during and after intercourse.

While we won’t get into specifics right here, you can explore this article from Cosmopolitan magazine. It highlights 5 positions to try if you experience pain with intercourse.

Medical Help for Painful Sex

Of course, women with fibroids are not the only ones who experience painful intercourse. According to a study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, evidence suggests that women with chronic sexual pain who were given Gabapentin (a fibromyalgia drug also used to target oral nerve pain) experienced relief from sexual pain.

The women included in this study had a condition known as vulvodynia, a chronic problem characterized bu stinging, burning and itching at the entry to the vagina. The condition is often worsened by sexual intercourse, or even by the use of tampons.

With the fibromyalgia drug Gabapentin, the 230 women included in the study experienced less pain; their arousal and sexual satisfaction levels also improved. Of course, the pain of vulvodynia does not have the same underlying cause as the pain of fibroids, but one factor does unite the two issues: tightness and discomfort in the pelvic region. Gabapentin appears to help women by alleviating pelvic pain, a symptom experienced by many women with fibroids. Results after UFE

Addressing the Emotional Cost of Fibroids

Now, the symptoms of fibroids aren’t just physical. They also take a big toll on women emotionally. And there’s a study to prove that fact!

According to a study from researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine, having fibroids is as much of a social and emotional challenge as it is to live with heart disease, diabetes or even breast cancer!

The findings are based on a comprehensive review of 57 earlier fibroid studies. And they suggest that living with fibroids dramatically lowers your quality of life. They also noted that fibroids could be considered a disability, because of their impact on mental health and social functioning. Not to mention the physical pain and disrupted sexual relationships that often come along for the ride with a fibroid diagnosis.

Pain Management Vs. Problem Solving

Not all women are ready to treat their fibroids immediately after receiving a diagnosis. And that’s why we’re helping you manage painful sex while you wisely research all your treatment options. Doing so will help you decide which course of action is best for your long term health and fertility goals. For women like these, who decide to lay surgical or non-invasive fibroid treatments like UFE, finding new ways to manage symptoms like painful intercourse will be very important.

Sources: Cosmopolitan Magazine, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Got Cramps between Periods? This Could Be the Problem

If you’ve got cramps between periods, this read is for you! Pretty much every woman on earth has experienced cramps at some point. You know the feeling: that throbbing pain in your lower abdomen, ranging from mildly uncomfortable to something severe enough that it keeps you from your daily life.

Typically, women experience cramps before or during their periods. These cramps are directly tied to your hormones: they set it caused when Prostaglandin (a lipid hormone) causes your uterine muscles to contract.  Called primary dysmenorrhea, the purpose of these types of cramps is to help your body get rid of its unfertilized egg and your uterine lining. And while uncomfortable, these primary cramps don’t last long—they typically resolve between 48 and 72 hours after they first begin.

But sometimes, you get cramps after your period is done; other times, cramps start up, but no period follows. These cramps are obviously not connected to  menstruation, so they are known as secondary dysmenorrhea. Sometimes, these secondary cramps are no big deal—it could be a sign of a minor stomach bug or other irritation. But other times, secondary cramps are a sign of an underlying medical condition. And, today, we’ll focus of one possible cause of secondary dysmenorrhea: uterine fibroids.

Cramps Between Periods and Fibroids

Before explaining the connection between cramps and fibroids, you need to know exactly what fibroids are (and aren’t. Fibroids are tumors that can form anywhere in your uterus. They are NOT cancerous, although a small minority of women will discover they also have cancer when treating their fibroids.

Some women’s fibroids aren’t symptomatic. Other women experience a range of symptoms. How many or how severe those symptoms will be have a lot to do with the, size, location and number of tumors developing in your uterus.

In addition to secondary cramping, fibroids can cause symptoms such as:

  • Spotting between periods
  • Heavy menstrual periods, some severe enough to require transfusions
  • Long periods
  • Pelvic pain or pressure
  • A frequent need to pee, and/or difficulties when you go
  • Constipation
  • For some women, becoming or remaining pregnant will also be difficult with fibroids.

 

Other Reasons You Get Non-Menstrual Cramps

Not all cramps between periods are tied to fibroids. Here are other reasons you might get cramps that aren’t tied to your menstrual cycle:

Ovarian cyst

If you have an ovarian cysts (a small, fluid-filled growth in your ovaries) you could experience intense lower belly cramps. These cysts are common, and your OBGYN can help you diagnose this condition. But don’t wait too long to seek help. If a cyst ruptures, you could experience a medical emergency. In addition to cramps, fever or vomiting are symptoms of a ruptured ovarian cyst.

Pregnancy

Cramps could be normal your pregnancy. In the first trimester, your expanding uterus triggers mild cramping. Your second trimester brings muscle cramps as your body stretches to accommodate fetal growth. But both these cramps should be mild and occasional, If they’re strong or frequent, tell your OBGYN right away.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

This condition is usually tied to an sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as gonorrhea or chlamydia. It’s a sign of infection in your reproductive organs, and it can cause painful cramps, fever, burning when you pee, and smelly discharge.

Inflammatory bowel disease

This chronic condition damages your digestive system. With IBD, its hard to digest food, and that triggers a range of symptoms. Abdominal pain and cramping is common, as are diarrhea, blood in your stool, loss of appetite, and weight loss. 

Endometriosis

This is a chronic disorder in which your uterine tissue grows outside your uterus. It’s often a cause of cramping between periods, but it also causes heavy periods and painful sex.

Diagnosing Cramping Between Periods

We hope this guide can help you determine the cause of your non-menstrual cramps. But we also hope you talk to your doctor about all your symptoms. That way, you can get the right diagnosis, and be on your way to relief.

Remember, it’s often your other symptoms that can help you get a diagnosis. Because fibroids can cause many painful symptoms, in addition to cramping between periods. Which is why so many women choose to treat their tumors. And, for many women, non-invasive treatment options like Uterine Fibroid Embolization will provide relief from symptoms! If you suspect you have fibroids, or have a diagnosis already, call our Houston fibroid specialists today to see if UFE is right for you!

Sources: Insider

5 Unwanted Effects of Hysterectomy

When choosing how to treat your fibroids, you need to know the effects of hysterectomy. As many as 70% of women will develop uterine fibroids in their lifetime. And they’ll likely experience symptoms such as heavy bleeding and pelvic pain or pressure. When fibroid symptoms are painful and disruptive, you want relief. Just be sure to choose a treatment that won’t cause you more problems down the road.

Why is Hysterectomy a Challenging Fibroid Treatment?

Hysterectomy alternativesMany women with fibroids consider hysterectomy. In fact, about 600,000 American women get hysterectomies each year. But, many times, a less drastic procedure could have worked instead. Check out these reasons why you shouldn’t have a hysterectomy.

Other Effects of Hysterectomy: Who Shouldn’t Get One?

Even if your doctor says a hysterectomy if your best treatment choice, there are good reasons to explore other options. You should not choose hysterectomy if:

  • You want a baby in the future. A hysterectomy is not an option for women if they would like to have a baby. If you are young and have fibroids, consider alternatives. Even if you don’t want kids now,  really think about your options. After all, a hysterectomy is forever.
  • You can’t afford to take time off. Traditional hysterectomies take approximately six weeks to recover, while minimally invasive procedures can take about two weeks. For women who are busy with school, work, or raising a family, this time off may severely impact their lives. Even after recovery, it may be even longer before the patient can return to a completely active lifestyle.
  • You have not yet reached menopause. When you lose your ovaries as part of a hysterectomy, your hormonal balance gets disrupted. This makes your estrogen and progesterone production decline. These two hormones play an important part in heart, bone, breast, and brain health. Even when an ovary-sparing hysterectomy is performed, the patient is more likely to develop premature ovarian function failure.
  • You wish to avoid the risks of surgery. Infections affect approximately 9 to 13 percent of those who undergo a hysterectomy. There is also a risk of damaging surrounding organs, nerve damage, hemorrhage, and anesthetic complications.
  • You want to preserve your sex drive. Because of the sudden drop in estrogen, your sexual desire is likely to drop after a hysterectomy. Vaginal dryness can also be a problem after removing your uterus. Which means that, even if you’re in the mood, sex may be painful for you without lubrication. Plus, there are other, long-term effects of hysterectomy that can impact your mental and physical wellbeing.

Consider Uterine Fibroid Embolization

Uterine fibroid embolization is completed through local anesthesia and is significantly less invasive than a surgery and patients can return to their daily lives much faster than those who have undergone a hysterectomy. In addition, studies show that approximately 90 percent of women who underwent UFE had significant or complete relief from the symptoms of uterine fibroids.

If you would like to see if UFE is right for you, contact Houston Fibroids.

Sources: National Women’s Health Network

Why is My Period so Heavy?

Why is my period so heavy? It’s a question many women have to ask. Almost no woman is a huge fan of menstruating. But sometimes a heavy flow is really too heavy. If you’re soaking through a pad or tampon every few hours, it could be a sign that your menstrual flow is abnormal or problematic. Want to know why? Here are 8 groups of women at risk for menorrhagia. (This is a condition characterized by heavy menstrual bleeding.) And a few things you can do if you’re in a high-risk group.

Why is My Period so Heavy? I have Fibroids

Women with fibroids have a higher risk for a heavy period. Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that typically develop in your uterus. They often lead to heavy menstrual bleeding, And, for some women, they can cause infertility. Studies reveal that, for about 10% of women who ask “Why is my period so heavy”, the answer is  fibroids.

Women with Polycystic ovarian syndrome

This condition is associated with irregular and infrequent periods. PCOS causes growths to develop around a woman’s cervix or uterus; the growths are either the result of high estrogen levels or are caused by infections. Because periods are irregular with PCOS, the uterine lining has a longer time to thicken, adding to the volume of a woman’s menstrual blood and making her flow abnormally heavy.

Women with Endometriosis

With endometriosis, tissue that’s similar to the lining of your uterus travels out of the uterus. When a woman with endometriosis menstruates, she sheds all of the lining tissue, regardless of its location. And that makes her period very heavy.

Women with Changing Hormones

When a woman is dealing with a hormonal imbalance—either low or high levels—she can experience irregular ovulation. And that can make her ask “Why is my period so heavy?”  As with other conditions that affect your menstrual cycle, hormonal imbalances that give you less frequent periods can make the periods you do have extra heavy.

Clotting Problems Change Periods

Certain genetic conditions, or even certain medications, can affect your body’s ability to form blood clots. While this problem is extremely rare, if you are one of the women affected by a natural or medical bleeding disorder, your periods may become very heavy.

IUDs Could Mean Heavier Periods

An IUD or intrauterine device is a long term form of birth control that’s implanted in your uterus. In certain cases, IUDS—especially ones that don’t contain hormones—can cause you to experience a heavier than normal period.

Black Women Have a Higher Risk

Research shows that 39% of Black women deal with heavy periods. That’s a higher percentage than in other groups of women. Which may be related to Black women’s increased risk for fibroids.

Obesity Can Make Periods Heavier

When you carry extra weight, your hormonal balance shifts. (See the risk factor above.) For obese women (who have a BMI of 30 or above) the risk increases further, because fat cells produce estrogen. And, with too much estrogen, your uterine lining will thicken. And, when it’s time to shed that lining at the end of the month, your period will be heavier.

Only your doctor can determine the specific cause of your heavy menstrual flow. If you are dealing with heavy periods and want some answers, schedule a consultation with our highly trained fibroid physicians right away. Don’t wait for another cycle to find relief!

Sources: International Journal of Gynecalogic Obstetrics

New FDA Warnings on Cancer-Spreading Power Morcellator!

As fibroid specialists, we’ve been warning women about power morcellator treatment for some time. Two years ago, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning for women with fibroids. It revealed that this common fibroid treatment can spread cancer cells in women’s bodies! And now, the FDA has updated their warnings to reflect the serious risk of the power morcellator.

Fibroid Treatment Options

Here at our Houston practice, we offer minimally invasive fibroid treatment. But many women with fibroids choose surgical treatment. Then, during that surgery, the fibroid removal involves a power morcellator. This is a machine that shreds the benign tumors inside the uterus. Some doctors like this treatment option because it is relatively non-invasive, compared to traditional surgery. Plus, it leaves women with smaller scars, and results in almost no down time. Unfortunately, it has now become clear that this supposedly non-invasive treatment option could actually act as a silent killer!

How a Power Morecellator Spreads Danger

While fibroids are non-cancerous tumors, the FDA reports that 1 in 350 women who are undergoing fibroid removal treatments are also suffering from undetected cancer! For those women who have cancer cells at the time of their treatment, the power morcellator actually makes their cases worse in two ways. First, it increases the risk of leaving behind the shredded, cancerous cells. Second: the morcellator spreads those cells around to a larger area of the uterus. Then, in some cases, those cells spread cancer to other parts of the body!

Given the risk, the FDA originally advised caution when considering this approach to fibroid treatment. Now, they updated their guidance, suggesting they should be packaged with boxed-warnings that reflect the risk of spreading cancer. This combines with previous warnings to only use the power morecellator with containment systems. And to limit its use to women who are under 50 and haven’t entered menopause.

As any woman with fibroids can appreciate, minimally invasive treatments are ideal, but not at the expense of overall health! In our Houston Fibroids practice, Drs. Fox and Hardee offer a different kind of procedure: a truly non invasive treatment that doesn’t put other areas of your health at risk!

A Better Choice Than the Power Morcellator

Known as Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), treatment is administered through an artery in your left wrist. Using special X-ray equipment,  a catheter (small tube) goes through the femoral artery and into the uterine artery, near your fibroid tumors. When it reaches the right spot, the doctors simply inject small spheres  through the catheter and into the blood flow leading to the uterine fibroid tumors. Next, those small spheres (embolic materials) block the vessels around the fibroid, cutting off the blood and oxygen it needs to grow. This blockage makes fibroids shrink, and the spheres stay in your blood vessels permanently so the fibroids don’t grow back!

Not only is this procedure fairly quick and easy (you can sit up and walk almost immediately after treatment) it is also a much safer option. UFE patients avoid surgery, general anesthesia, and. most importantly, the risk of spreading dangerous cancer cells throughout their bodies!

While UFE is not for everyone, it is a great choice for those who qualify. If you are interested in learning more, please schedule an in office consultation with our team!

Sources: U.S. Food & Drug Administration

Got a Changing Period? It Could be Age, Fibroids…or these 8 other issues!

Our world changed drastically in the last few months…and with it, you may notice your changing period, too! If you’ve noticed changes to your menstrual cycle since the start of the pandemic, you’re probably not alone. As it turns out, the stress of COVID-19 and a global pandemic are changing periods for women. tampons

You may get your period more frequently, or you may skip a period. Your period could be heavier, or could get stretched out with days of breakthrough bleeding. Because, as Dr. Beth Donaldson recently told the Huffington Post, “Stress hormones can react with the regular hormonal cycle and misguide the body.”

In other words, your wonky period symptoms could be yet another example of the pandemic’s toll on our health. But if those changes have persisted for more than a few months, it’s worth exploring these other potential causes of period changes that affect your monthly cycle.

A Changing Period could mean Fibroids

Fibroids can be responsible for your changing periods: from your cycle length to the heaviness of your flow, these non-cancerous tumors can make a major toll on your body each month. But fibroids aren’t the only things that affect your monthly cycle: getting older leads to menstrual changes, too. For this reason, it’s important to know what changes are typical for your age, and which are not. Recognizing the difference between typical and atypical cycle changes could help you come to a fibroid diagnosis that much quicker.

With that in mind, here’s a decade-by-decade guide to what you should expect from your menstrual cycle:

Your Changing Period in your 20s

Even irregular periods usually become consistent in this decade. Unfortunately, symptoms like cramps, PMS and breast tenderness also become more regular, although birth control can help mitigate menstrual symptoms. Keep in mind, however, that if you already have fibroids, birth control may contribute to their growth, so you should always consult with your doctor before starting on an oral contraceptive.

Your Period in Your 30s

This decade is the one in which most women are diagnosed with fibroids, so take note of any major changes in your cycle at this time. Want some good news? Many women will have already had children by this stage of life; after a pregnancy, negative menstrual symptoms often dissipate or go away entirely! If you receive a fibroid diagnosis in your 30s, and still plan to expand your family, it’s important to discuss treatment options with a fibroid specialist. There are several fertility-sparing fibroid treatments that can provide symptom relief without forcing you to have a hysterectomy.

Your Period in Your 40s

This is the decade in which your period will likely become irregular. It can also become heavier (an effect that can also be caused by fibroids) and spotting between periods is not uncommon. Don’t forget that pregnancy is still a possibility at this stage, so you have to carefully consider alternative contraception options before ceasing oral contraceptives that may have previously helped you manage fibroid symptoms like heavy flow.

Medical Conditions that Trigger a Changing Period

Certain other problems can also trigger changes in the length of your cycle or the heaviness of your flow. In addition to fibroids, changes in your uterine structure, such as polyps or endometriosis, could also change your period. When conditions like PCOS or thyroid problems affect your hormone levels, your period could also change. The same is true if you’re under lots of stress (see our earlier note about the pandemic.) Or if you go on an extreme diet, over-exercise or suffer from a condition such as anorexia or bulimia. Finally, abnormal bleeding (especially bleeding after menopause) could be a symptom of certain gynecologic cancers. So if changes in your period occur after your period has stopped, that should be a sign to see your doctor immediately!

Now, keep in mind: while we can make general assumptions about the way your period will progress over the years, every woman is different. What’s “normal” for one person may be unbearable to another. So, how can you tell when it’s time to see a doctor about a changing period? Here’s our rule of thumb: if your menstrual symptoms are significant enough to negatively impact your day, it’s a good idea to inform your doctor of what’s going on! And if you suspect that fibroids are behind the changes in your cycle, come see our Houston fibroid specialists right away so you can learn your fibroid treatment options!

Sources: Health Central, Huffpost.com, Edward-Elmhurst Health

What you Need to Know about Fibroids, Menopause and Cancer

Why do fibroids, menopause and cancer risk go together? Let’s explore that connection today! 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. What’s clear is that between 40 and 80% of women will develop fibroids in their life. And that certain factors increase your risk. These include starting your period early, too much caffeine or alcohol, hormonal fluctuations, obesity, poor diet and race. (Black women are three times more likely than white women to develop fibroids!)

So, that’s what we know about getting fibroids. And now, we 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.

woman researching online

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 Fibroids, 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.

Sources: International Journal of Women’s Health, The Mayo Clinic, Journal of Scientific Reports, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

Should I Use an IUD or Oral Birth Control with Fibroids?

You can use birth control with fibroids, but you may have to discuss options with your doctors. You see, uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors. Many women will be affected by fibroids in their life.  Fibroids can develop in several different places in or on the uterus. Depending on where they develop, they will be classified  as subserosal, intramural, or submucosal.

While no one knows exactly why these tumors develop, there are a few different theories. Things that impact growth in your body, such as insulin-like growth factor, may trigger fibroid growth. Extracellular matrix (ECM), a material that makes cells stick together, could also be involved. When you have fibroids, ECM increases and makes these tumors fibrous. But ECM also stores growth factors, and may trigger  biologic changes in your cells, increasing risk of more fibroids.

Now, these are elements we don’t totally understand. But most doctors do agree that fibroid growth can be affected by the presence of estrogen. This may be why many women’s fibroids grow and develop during pregnancy. Because of the connection between estrogen and fibroid development, you may be wondering about birth control with fibroids, and how it will affect their growth? Here’s what you need to know about using birth control with fibroids.

How Will Oral Birth Control with Fibroids Affect Symptoms?

  1. Your Periods Will Probably get Lighter

A common side effect of fibroids is long, heavy periods; using birth control pills may help manage this symptom. Birth control typically gives women lighter, shorter periods because the estrogen in the medications can help improve blood clotting and reduce your menstrual flow.

2. You May Have Fewer Cramps

Pelvic pain and cramps are another typical fibroid side effect—and these cramps can be quite severe for women dealing with these tumors. Many women on birth control pills experience cramping relief because the medications can decrease a woman’s prostaglandin count (prostaglandins make the uterus contract, leading to cramps.)

3. Your Fibroids Could Get Bigger

While taking birth control may help you manage certain side effects of fibroids, there’s a caveat: fibroids are very responsive to estrogen, which means that taking birth control can actually make your tumors grow larger. For this reason, you’ll need to discuss your options with your doctors carefully. A larger fibroid tumor may cause you to experience a worsening of symptoms, canceling out the temporary relief delivered by the estrogen in your birth control pills.

4. Birth Control Can Help Prevent Fibroids

If you already have uterine fibroids, taking birth control could make your tumors increase in size. But if you haven’t yet been diagnosed, certain birth controls (especially those with lower doses of estrogen) may reduce your fibroid risk!

Can I Implant an IUD with Fibroids?

If oral contraceptives aren’t your best choice, you may be interested in an IUD (intrauterine device) birth control with fibroids. This is a small device which gets implanted into your uterus to prevent pregnancy. IUDs come in two forms: hormonal and non-hormonal, and the type you choose will make a difference in your fibroid experience. Let’s explore the differences between the two types of IUDs.

Hormonal vs. Non-Hormonal IUD

Hormonal IUDs prevent pregnancy by release synthetic hormones to thins your uterine lining, thicken your cervical mucus. They also partially prevent you from ovulating. In contrast, non-hormonal IUDs release copper into your uterus. And that coppers creates an inflammatory reaction within your uterus, which results in an environment in which sperm can’t survive.

Now that you understand how IUDs work, let’s explore if they work for women with fibroids. And here’s the story: sometimes they do. But sometimes, if your fibroids have changed the shape of your uterus, you won’t be able to use and IUD. In those cases, then, you’ll want to explore alternative methods of birth control. If, however, you’re a good candidate for an IUD, you’ll need to choose between a hormonal or non-hormonal device.

Should I get a Hormonal IUD with Fibroids?

For many women with fibroids, using a hormonal IUD will relieve your symptoms. That’s especially true for heavy periods, since this kind of IUD gives you a thinner uterine lining. Also, since you’ll lose less blood each month with a hormonal IUD, you’re anemia risk will be lower. If you were already anemic, your symptoms should improve.

Hormonal IUDs may also reduce painful cramping, since your uterine lining cells release the chemicals which cause this symptom. Basically, a thinner lining means less blood loss and less materials to cause cramps. Which means if you’re suffering from these fibroid symptoms, you may benefit from a hormonal IUD. Except, of course, in one instance. Keep reading to find out when you shouldn’t use a hormonal IUD.

 

Could Hormonal IUDs Make my Fibroids Worse?

Let’s be clear: we don’t know what causes fibroids to develop or grow larger. But we do suspect that there’s a link between hormones and fibroid growth. In other words, there’s a chance that implanting a hormonal IUD could cause your fibroids to grow larger.

If that possibility makes you nervous, we completely understand. Just know that you can still use an IUD for birth control. In this case, you’d just opt for a non-hormonal IUD. But, keep in mind, while this IUD effectively prevents pregnancy, it won’t do anything to improve your fibroid symptoms. In fact, some women using non-hormonal IUDs report heavier bleeding and cramps. Obviously, you’ll need to think carefully about your options before selecting a non-hormonal IUD.

And, before choosing either type of IUD, keep in mind that your fibroids will increase your risk for IUD expulsion, which occurs when your device falls fully or partially out of your uterus. If you partially expel your IUD, you’ll need to consult your doctor about safe removal, and likely move on to another form of birth control once your situation is resolved.

Choosing the right birth control when you have fibroids can be complicated, so it’s crucial to review all your options with your fibroid specialist. But please remember, while birth control may alleviate fibroid symptoms, it can’t “cure” or eliminate your actual fibroids. That will only be possible with fibroid treatment. So, feel free to reach out to Dr. Fox or Dr. Hardee to schedule a consultation on all your fibroid treatment options. And, in light of the current COVID-19 outbreak, rest assured you can choose to schedule a remote, Telemedicine fibroid consultation.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, fibroids.com, USA Fibroid Centers

There’s Hidden Danger in Black Hair Products

There’s a lot of focus on black hair products when it comes to understanding why women get fibroids. You see, uterine fibroids are just worse for black women than for any other group. African Americans develop these tumors three times as often as women of other races. Plus, their fibroids develop earlier–often in their twenties. In comparison, most white women don’t get fibroids until their 30s.

But that’s not all. With fibroids, black women are more likely to develop anemia with fibroids. They also have a higher risk for fibroids symptoms such as painful sex, severe pelvic pain and heavy periods.

Of course, those are scary statistics. But what’s worse? We don’t have concrete explanations for the disparities. What we do have, however, are theories. And one of those theories has to do with hair styling.

Could Black Hair Products Impact Fibroids?

Hair products–can’t live without ’em, right? Well, as it turns out, it also may not be wise to live with them. 

According to the Silent Spring Institute, many of the hair products marketed to black women are full of harmful chemicals. Ever wondered why they smell so bad? It’s basically the poisons inside them. They’re just revealing their nature.

In fact, there is some science to back up this claim. A 2017 Rutgers University study linked breast cancer and Black women’s use of hair relaxers. A 2012 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology associated fibroid risk with the use of hair relaxers. Shirley McDonald of the Hair and Scalp Clinic says, “We now know that many hair products contain chemicals that are considered carcinogenic and/or hormone disrupters, leading to increased risk of medical issues such as fibroids (non-cancerous tumors that grow in the uterus, potentially damaging fertility and leading to a host of other complications). Trichologists see lots of conditions that are likely to be triggered by hair products, particularly central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia, a type of permanent hair loss to the crown area of the scalp.”

Chemicals in Black Women’s Hair Products

Among the many dangerous substances in black women’s hair products? Cyclosiloxanes, nonylphenols (also found in certain detergents), and phthalates (also found in plastics, they are the main reason people are working to ban plastics from food containers.) Besides their toxicity, each of these chemicals share a common bond–they have all been linked to hormone disruption as well as an increased risk of developing fibroids, asthma, infertility, and even cancer. That’s a hefty price to pay for shinier hair.

Throwing Flames on the Fire

Being exposed to these chemicals is particularly troubling for black women, as they already have a higher risk of developing fibroids than other populations of women. Family history plays a part in that risk. And some people suggest that higher obesity rates may also be at issue.

But, more and more, certain hair products are also starting to shoulder the blame. According to the Silent Spring study mentioned earlier, 80% of Black hair products they tested contained “endocrine-disrupting and asthma-causing chemicals.” Products examined included by the study included relaxers, hot oil treatments, leave-in conditioners, and anti-frizz balms. The scariest statistic? Hair relaxers that specifically targeted children had the highest levels of chemicals; many of those chemicals have already been banned in the EU.

New Evidence Links Relaxers to Female Cancers two friends talking together

Of course, fibroids are a major problem. But hair relaxers are linked to so many other health problems. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) just released results from an eight-year study. They followed over 46,000 women, of all races between the ages of 35–74. And they found a link between chemical hair relaxers and breast cancer. Perhaps not surprisingly, African American women had a 45 percent increased risk of breast cancer as compared to women of other races.

Taking Action

While you can’t do anything about your family history, being selective about the hair products you choose can certainly go along way towards protecting your health. To find out more about dangerous hair care products and your individual fibroid risk, please contact our Houston fibroid specialists office for a consultation with Dr. Fox or Dr. Hardee.

Sources: NY Times parenting, Silent Spring Institute, NIH

#WCW: Kandi Buress on Fertility and Fibroids

Fertility and fibroids are a tough combo. Today, Bravo TV star Kandi Buress has three children. But just a few years ago, she came forward, talking about how fibroids affected her fertility. In 2015, the then 38-year-old had been trying for two years, unsuccessfully, to have a second child. When she and husband Todd Tucker finally decided to turn to IVF for help conceiving, the couple discovered what was at the heart of their fertility problem: Kandi had a uterine fibroid.

Facing the Problem of Fertility and Fibroids

At the time, Kandi was surprised. (Even though up to 80% of black women will develop fibroids in their lifetime.) She told reporters, “We realized I had a fibroid—a big one—inside the cavity of the uterus where your baby would implant.” Immediately, she worried about ever having another child.

Like Kandi, many women with uterine fibroids experience difficulties becoming pregnant. In fact, research shows that fibroids are involved in 10% of female infertility cases. And, for up to 3% of women, fibroids are the only known cause of that infertility.

In Kandi’s case, her story had a happy ending. She has since has two more children. And she chose to share her story with fans, in order to give other women hope. Which is why, today, she’s our #WCW.

She said, “Luckily for us, it was a blessing, and we actually had success with the first IVF treatment. It takes a couple of months for you to go through the whole process of injections, retrieving the eggs and all of that stuff, then allowing them to put them back in and praying that they take. One of our eggs took.”

Fibroid Recovery and Conception

Of course, some women cannot conceive easily with fibroids. For that reason, they must treat the tumors before getting pregnant. Now, many fibroid suffers think surgery is the only way to treat fibroids and preserve fertility. But that’s not actually true! In our Houston Fibroid office, we offer a non-surgical, minimally invasive treatment known as Uterine Fibroid Embolization. After UFE, your fibroids shrink permanently. And pregnancy is still possible for many women!

In fact, many reports and studies show women getting pregnant after UFE. These studies also show that fertility rates and miscarriage rates in UFE patients are no different than patients of the same age who don’t treat their fibroids. Still, if you want to get pregnant, you may prefer a myomectomy.  (This is a surgical fibroid removal). That’s because, if you are healthy enough to get through surgery, some studies suggest you’ll have slightly less pregnancy complications than you would after UFE.

The important thing to remember in all this is that a fibroid diagnosis does not mean the end of your dream to carry a child. Like Kandi Buress and many other women, your path to fertility can be successful. It’s simply a question of knowing your options and making the informed decision that’s best for your body and your family. So make an appointment with our specialists today. We can review your options and help you complete your family!

Sources: Seminars in Reproductive Medicine

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