Category: COVID-19

Fibroid Risk for Black Women is Epidemic, But You Might Not Know It

Maybe you’ve heard that the fibroid risk for black women is higher. In fact, black women are more than three times as likely to develop these uterine tumors than women of other races. But those are just the measured numbers. In reality, we now know that fibroids, non-cancerous growths in your uterus, often go unnoticed.

As a result, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) calls fibroids a “hidden” epidemic. And late Rep. Stephanie Tubs Jones, who was Ohio’s first black female representative in Congress, called it a “silent epidemic.” One that, unfortunately, impacts black women more than any other female population in this country. Here’s why:

What Makes Fibroids Silent? shh animation

Let’s review: many women with fibroids experience symptoms like pelvic pain, heavy periods or periods that last longer than normal. Many of these women also experience fertility challenges.

But, as it turns out, these fibroid symptoms only impact about 20% of women with the growths. Which means that as many as 80% of fibroid sufferers aren’t aware they’ve got a problem. Why is that a big deal?

While fibroids may start off on the smaller side, they often don’t stay that way.  And, as they grow, symptoms might pop up. What does that mean? Women often don’t notice fibroids until they’re quite large, which may limit their treatment options.

Why is the Fibroid Risk for Black Women Higher?

There’s so much we don’t know about why some women develop fibroids and others don’t. That’s largely because we don’t know exactly why fibroids develop in the first place. But no matter what, we know that black women develop fibroids more frequently than all other groups of women. And we want to know why that’s the case.

There are several theories that may explain why the elevated fibroid risk for black women. One is that hair products that are marketed for black women contain harmful chemicals. And those chemicals can increase your fibroid risk.

Recently, a new theory emerged, and it has to do with the environment. In a study in Human Reproduction, researchers discovered a link between air pollution, black women and increased fibroid risk. The study spent 14 years following the health of 22,000 pre-menopausal black women living in 56 cities across the United States. At the same time, researchers tracked the levels of three different air pollutants in those cities. And what they found was surprising.

About 30% of the female participants were diagnosed with fibroids over the course of the study. That rate is on par with what we’d expect from that study size. But here’s the interesting part: when atmospheric ozone levels rose, so did the women’s fibroid risk.

Understanding the Risks

Given this discovery, study author Amelia Wesselink, an assistant professor at Boston University School of Public Health, couldn’t explain why ozone was the major problem. But she did suggest that ozone may reduce your vitamin D levels. And we’ve already linked vitamin D deficiency to fibroid risk.

Right now, the new findings just give us one new clue in the fibroid risk puzzle. But Wesselink now wants to screen larger populations to help us better understand the connection. Of course, that could help us diagnose the many women who are living with fibroids and don’t know it. So, you may want to consider getting screened for fibroids. Especially if you live in a polluted city. And especially if you want to explore less-invasive treatment options, which often work best when fibroids are caught early on.

What are my Fibroid Treatment Options?

How we treat your fibroids will depend on your individual symptoms. At our practice, we offer Uterine Fibroid Embolization, a minimally invasive fibroid treatment. If you are interested in this treatment, here’s the steps you need to take: gather information, talk to your healthcare provider, and request a consultation with our doctors!

We have plenty of information about UFE on our website, and your OB-Gyn may be able to discuss other treatment options. It’s important for you to know that UFE is one of the few options which won’t require a hospital stay or general anesthetic.

It also allows you to keep your uterus, unlike a hysterectomy, which is an all-too-common fibroid treatment. If all of this sounds good to you, then we invite you to request a consultation. At this time, we are happy to offer Telemedicine appointments, so we can begin your fibroid treatment process without making you leave your house!

 

What Helps Pelvic Congestion Syndrome?

Do you know the warning signs of Pelvic Congestion Syndrome (PCS)? While pelvic pain, incontinence and uterine fibroids often go hand in hand, these are also red flags for other serious conditions. One such problem is PCS, a medical problem that is triggered by internal varicose veins in your lower abdomen and pelvis. fibroids treatment

Typically, these veins are in your ovaries. They form with vein reflux (when blood flows backwards in your veins). The kind of pelvic pain connected with PCS is more of a chronic ache; some women describe the sensation of someone tugging or pulling in their pelvis.

PCS is a long-term condition, meaning symptoms will stick around, but with this problem, the pain can be made worse when you first stand up or first sit down. Lying down, on the other hand, can provide relief from the pain of PCS.

In addition to pain in your pelvis, PCS can trigger an irritable bowel and/or bladder and painful sex. PCS may also cause visible varicose veins to appear in or around your vulva, vagina, perineum and anus.

While PCS is fairly common, it is often misdiagnosed because the symptoms mimic other conditions, and the root cause of the problem is buried deep within your body. Here’s what you need to know about PCS in order to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment:

What is Pelvic Congestion Syndrome?

When too much blood builds up in your pelvic, you develop the painful PCS condition. And internal varicose veins are often at fault. Individuals with PCS will experience a dull, aching pelvis period over an extended period of time. Women are more likely to develop PCS than men, but both genders can be affected.

When men are affected by PCS, the condition is easier to diagnose and treat, because two of men’s four pelvic veins are visible on the outside of their bodies. Because all of women’s pelvic veins are invisible on the surface of their bodies, PCS can be harder to spot for women. Most women with PCS have previously been pregnant, but even women who’ve never had a pregnancy can develop the condition.

Typically, we think of PCS as a problem for premenopausal women. Recently, studies suggest that menopause doesn’t always offer relief from PCS. In fact, it turns out that some women first develop symptoms after menopause. Clearly, we need to learn more about the causes of this condition.

Why do symptoms develop?

As we already mentioned, PCS develops because of varicose pelvic veins. Varicose veins in the pelvis begin to develop when their valves fail, causing blood that should be pushed out of the pelvis to stick around in the area instead of traveling back to the heart. When this happens, the veins become dilated and put pressure on sensitive areas of the pelvis and on the pelvic floor muscles (the ones you exercise when doing your kegels.)

Still, we aren’t clear why your valves would fail. Sometimes, the cause seems to be late-pregnancy injury. In other cases, excess estrogen may be the cause, since the hormone can widen your blood vessels. PCS may also be a secondary symptom for people with May-Thurner syndromes. Regardless of the cause, the condition presents with uniform symptoms.

What are the symptoms of PCS?

PCS usually causes women to experience pain deep in their pelvis or uterus; the pain is usually dull or aching rather than sharp or intense. PCS pain gets worse all day, especially if you exercise.

While PCS pain is typically dull, changes in posture or heavy lifting can cause women to experience sharp pains in their abdominal area. With PCS, sex and periods can also become more painful.

Some women with PCS also have bladder symptoms that include a frequent need to pee, frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom and even incontinence. Many women will also develop vaginal or vulvar varicose veins. On diagnostic imaging, we’ll also notice an increase in the volume of your pelvic veins.

Can I treat PCS?

We typically diagnose PCS with an ultrasound scan.  Then, your Houston interventional radiologists treat PCS easily, with Pelvic Vein Embolisation (PVE). (This is a procedure that’s similar to Uterine Fibroid Embolization, or UFE.)

We use a local anesthetic for this x-ray technique. Guided by ultrasound, we’ll insert a catheter (thin tube) in your vein, pushing into the problematic pelvic vein. Once there, we deposit embolizing material to permanently block off the vein or veins causing your PCS symptoms. After, blood can’t build up in the area. Your vein will shrink and symptoms should resolve quickly.

With proper care and a minimally invasive procedure, we can quickly treat and resolve PCS. Our highly trained vein specialists can easily spot your PCS symptoms and recommend a treatment plan. If you’re experiencing dull, aching pelvic pain, you should schedule a consultation right away. We can even meet remotely, with a Telemedicine appointment, if that’s easier for your current schedule. Remember, you don’t have to live with chronic pelvis pain—you just need to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment plan!

Sources: www.Cedars-Sinai.Org

Stress, Vitamin D Deficiency and Fibroid Risk: What You Need to Know

What do stress, vitamin d deficiency and fibroids have in common? Well, they’re all getting a lot more attention during the pandemic!

After all, even in normal times, life is stressful. But when you’re in the middle of a global pandemic? That stress is multiplied and magnified to entirely new levels. Plus, we’re all spending more time indoors, so our risk goes up for vitamin d deficiency. (Which could also increase your risk for serious COVID-19, according to current research.)

Of course, these are problems for so many reasons. But, for our purposes, we’ll just focus on one: stress and vitamin d deficiency may increase your fibroid risk. In a minute, we’ll explore this idea further. First, however, we’ll give you a quick fibroid overview so we’re all on the same page.

What are fibroids? Female with Fibroids

Fibroid tumors are firm, muscular, uterine growths. We classify (and name them)  based on their location in or on your uterus. If they’re inside your uterus, they’re called submucosal. When they grow on your outer uterine surface, they’re subserosal. Fibroids in the muscles of your uterine wall are intramural, and fibroids that grow like stalks outside your uterus are pedunculated.

Fibroids also vary widely in size. Some are so small they go undetected, or cause no symptoms. But others are much larger, or develop in groups. When this happens, you’re likely to experience troubling symptoms such as pain, heavy periods, anemia, pregnancy complications or even infertility. That’s why we recommend treating your fibroids with a minimally invasive procedure such as Uterine Fibroid Embolization. And it’s also why we’re helping you understand why you get fibroids in the first place.

Vitamin D Deficiency and Other Risks: Why do Fibroids Develop?

Unfortunately, we don’t truly know what causes fibroid development. But we do know they impact black women more than any other group. (By the age of 50, 70% of white women have fibroids. But 80% of black women have them at the same age.)

Lots of things affect your fibroid risk. Current research  suggests that stress may be associated with an increased fibroid risk. Also, research now suggests that vitamin d deficiency could increase your risk for fibroids. When working properly, your body’s vitamin d stores produce an anti-fibroid effect by reducing certain chemicals that seem to trigger fibroid growth. This factor, in addition to other factors we’ve already identified, including family history, and exposure to the chemicals within hair relaxers, could help explain why black women more often get fibroids. Because, vitamin d deficiency is 10 time more prevalent in Black women than in white women!

In combination, these factors can help you understand your fibroid risk. And understanding that stress increases your risk means now is a good moment to check in with your reproductive health. If you notice symptoms such as pelvic pain, frequent urination, or long and/or heavy periods, don’t wait. Seek help right away from a fibroid specialist. Don’t want to leave your house? No problem! Our Houston Fibroids team still offers remote fibroid consultations, via the secure Doxy platform. But we can also see you in our office if you need a procedure. Now, what kind of procedure will depend on your selected treatment preference. So let’s explore your best fibroid treatment plans.

How Should I Treat Fibroids?

All too often, you’ll hear that hysterectomy is the best fibroid treatment. But that’s actually not true for every woman. In fact, many women can find relief from fibroid symptoms with UFE, a minimally invasive procedure which cuts off fibroid blood supply. This effectively kills the tumors. All without surgery, and all while preserving your uterus!

Of course, some women may prefer a myomectomy—the surgical removal of individual fibroids. If this is your choice, just exercise caution. If your doctor wants to perform laparoscopic surgery, just say no to morcellators. They majorly increase your risk for uterine cancer.

What we really want you to understand is this. We’re living in stressful times. And that can hurt your health in so many ways. But don’t feel like you need to delay treating pressing health issues, just to avoid Coronavirus. There are real, concrete ways we can help you manage fibroids, all while preserving social distancing. So, if you’re in pain, reach out for help. Request an appointment with our fibroid specialists and we’ll put you on the path to relief. All while protecting you from unnecessary surgeries!

 

Sources: Seminars in Reproductive Medicine , Journal of Women’s Health Issues. Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., Columbia Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York.

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

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

Got a Heavy Period? Find out Why (and When to Call Us!)

If you have a heavy period, it’s a drag. Even if you’re staying closer to home right now because of the COVID-19 uptick, chances are you’re paying more attention to your body. And, if that’s the case, you may have suddenly noticed: your period’s pretty heavy!

Some women are more at risk for heavy flow than others. And there’s lots of reasons your period gets heavy (we’ll go through them shortly. Because it’s important to know your why, so you can determine if you need to seek medical care.) But first, let’s talk about what it means to have a ‘heavy’ period.

Who’s at Risk for a Heavy Period?

Any woman, especially Black woman, with an increased fibroid risk is more likely to have a heavy period. In fact, about 39% of black women experience heavy bleeding at that time of the month. (And 70% of black women will likely develop fibroids.)

But fibroids aren’t the only condition that can affect your monthly flow. If you have PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), your periods will probably be irregular. Still, when they do come, they are likely to be heavier than normal.

Also, women who are obese (with a BMI that’s 30 or higher), and women with copper IUDs have a higher risk for heavy periods. Finally, thyroid conditions, as well as health conditions that put you on blood thinners, could also leave you with a heavy flow each month.

Of course, sometimes a heavy period is no big deal. But sometimes, heavy flow can negatively impact other areas of your help. So keep reading to find out if you need medical help for your heavy period.

How Can I Tell if a Heavy Period is a Problem? tampons

Like everything to do with your body, some of this is personal. If your period is suddenly much heavier than it used to be (you’re soaking through tampons or pads more rapidly), that on its own could be a warning sign.

But there is a medical condition, known as menorrhagia, which refers to a possibly-dangerous amount of period blood loss. Signs of this condition include soaking your tampon or pad every hour, for several hours in a row. Or, if you need to use a tampon and pad to avoid leaking, you may have a problem. It’s also problematic if your period lasts longer than a week, if you pass clots that are bigger than a quarter, or if your flow is affecting your sleep and daily activities.

Why Is My Period So Heavy? 4 Potential Causes of Heavy Bleeding

There are several reasons your period might be heavy. Let’s explore a few, and discuss what to do if you think that’s your ‘why.’

1. You Have Fibroids

Fibroids are (almost always) non-cancerous tumors that develop in, on or around your uterus. Fibroids cause heavy and long periods. But that’s not the only symptom that pops up with fibroids. If your heavy periods are the result of fibroids, you may have other symptoms like pelvic pain, constipation, frequent urination, and even bloating or weight gain (larger fibroids can make you look like you’re in the early stages of pregnancy!)

If you experience heavy periods, and any of the other fibroid symptoms we described, call your gynecologist or a fibroid specialist for a screening.

2. You’ve Got Thyroid Problems

Your thyroid actually plays a role in regulating your menstrual cycle, so when it’s malfunctioning, your period could stop completely. Or it could get really heavy. Typically, heavy periods are a sign of an underactive thyroid because this can impact your ovaries progesterone production, and that’s the hormone which regulates your period flow.

If an underactive thyroid is causing your heavy periods, you may also experience fatigue, dry skin, brittle nails and hair loss. Got these symptoms too? It’s best to seek the advice of an endocrinologist regarding your thyroid help.

3. You’re Entering Menopause

In the years and months before menopause, your period will change. It won’t come as often, and it could last longer, and be heavier when it does show up.

Since your period is coming less frequently, your uterine lining will get thicker before it sheds. This means when it does arrive, your period will be much heavier. You may also pass more and larger clots. So, if you’re approaching the age of menopause, and your period’s getting heavier, you don’t need to be concerned. Instead, acknowledge your changing body and start preparing mentally for your next stage of life.

4. That Extra Exercise is Causing Changes Happy African American Woman Smiling Outside

Are you using the pandemic to become a crazy runner? Or taking online fitness classes every single day? When you suddenly ramp up your activity levels, your adjusting body may lose its hormonal balance. As a result, your periods may get heavier. And this heavy flow could last for a few cycles, especially if you keep upping your fitness game.

If you’ve been training extra hard during the pandemic, and now your flow is off, you probably don’t need to go into your doctor’s office. You may, however, want to discuss hormone-balancing measures you could take from home. And possibly build a rest day into your schedule!

Other Causes of Heavy, Painful Periods

There are other factors which make your periods more likely to be painful. These include your age (periods tend to be more painful before you turn 20), and your pregnancy history (if you haven’t had a baby, painful periods are more likely.) If you’re a smoker, or have a family history of painful periods, your risk is also higher.

Another factor to consider is when you started your period. If your first menstrual cycle arrived before you turned 11, this could increase your risk for period pain. And, finally, aside from fibroids, other chronic conditions can make your period more painful. These include Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which is a  condition triggered by the hormonal changes in your body that begin 1 to 2 weeks before your period. Endometriosis could also be responsible. This is a condition in which your uterine cells grow outside of the uterus, typically on your ovaries, fallopian tubes, or even on your pelvic lining.

Now you know some possible causes for your heavy, painful periods, it’s time to start looking carefully at all of your menstrual symptoms. And please know that, even in these crazy times, we are here to help you find relief from period pain. Houston fibroids is open and here for you!

Sources: International Journal of Obstetrics and GynecologyPrevention Magazine, Oprah Magazine

Cut out Trans Fat and Other Changes to Help Fibroid Pain

Many women diagnosed with fibroids—non-cancerous tumors in the uterus—want pain relief and help with fibroid symptoms like long, heavy periods. But many women would also prefer to avoid medical interventions, especially right now, during this time of coronavirus uncertainty. So, as Houston area fibroid specialists, we are often asked: can everyday changes help me find relief from fibroid pain?

Well, here’s the deal: changes in diet, exercise and self-care won’t cure your fibroids. But, there are some tweaks you can make to your everyday routine that could keep your fibroids from getting bigger. And others may make your fibroid symptoms more manageable. Let’s take a closer look.

 

Dietary Changes to Help Fibroid Pain

While the science on this matter is still not conclusive, evidence suggests that some foods can help shrink your fibroids, while others will potentially make them worse.

In a new study released in the journal of Fertility and Sterility, researchers studied over 80,000 pre-menopausal women between the ages of 24 and 42. Since their enrollment in 1989, researchers followed these women, monitoring their diets…and observing any fibroid development. During the 18 year study period, just over 8000 of these women developed fibroids. And what they discovered was interesting. While a generally high-fat diet didn’t appear to affect fibroid risk, there were two exceptions. Women who ate polyunsaturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids did develop fibroids more frequently. Some of the worst-offending foods include shortening, frozen dough, frozen pizza and microwave popcorn.

vitamins to fight fibroids

Research also suggests that highly caloric diets full of red meat and sugar can increase your risk of developing fibroids. In order to minimize your risk, then, you could try replacing red meats with leaner cuts like chicken or turkey. Better yet, you could try getting your protein from plant-based sources like beans or the new and widely-beloved Impossible or Beyond Burgers.

Which Vitamins Can Help my Fibroid Symptoms?

According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, getting Vitamin A from animal sources may help reduce your fibroid risk. Also, they found that eating more fruit can help lower your fibroid risk factor. The study further noted that African American women are far more likely to develop fibroids, and tend to have diets lower in these fibroid-fighting foods and vitamins.

If you want to add fibroid-fighting vitamins to your diet, try including:

  • Salmon, tuna, mackerel and other fatty fish
  • Blueberries, plums, apples, cherries and other flavonoid-packed fruit
  • Broccoli, lettuce, spinach and other green veggies
  • Lemons, limes, oranges and other citrus fruits
  • Broad beans

Food-based vitamin sources are best for absorbing your fibroid-fighting vitamins. But, if making changes to your diet isn’t an option, vitamin supplements are still a great choice.

Exercise and Fibroids

New year's resolutions

Exercise in and of itself doesn’t stomp out fibroids. But getting your sweat on can reduce your BMI (body mass index.) It will also help eliminate fat stores in your body. And both of those factors will make it easier for your body to process estrogen hormones. Which, in turn, can help lower your fibroid risk, since high levels of estrogen in the body can increase your risk of developing new fibroids, or of seeing your existing tumors get larger.

Alternative Therapies

When you live with fibroids, you may develop anemia, severe pain, or problems when you pee. And you will need to address those issues with your doctor, But, when it comes to managing your chronic pain before fibroid treatment, The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has some helpful suggestions. Some top tips include acupuncture, which is an ancient Chinese therapy that uses small needles, inserted to your skin at specific accupoints. Another suggestion? Try yoga, a flowing, low-impact exercise that can boost your fitness while also offering you helpful breathing exercises. Additionally, deep breathing, meditation and therapeutic massage can all offer temporary relief. Still, in order to find permanent fibroid pain relief, you’ll need to treat your fibroids, not just your symptoms.

When fibroids are small, lifestyle changes can certainly help you keep fibroids in check so you can live your normal life. But when tumors grow large, or your symptoms are severe, targeted fibroid treatment will be a better option. Contact our Houston fibroid specialists today to see if our minimally invasive treatment protocol is your best option.

Sources: Health.Harvard.Edu, mayoclinic.org, Journal of Fertility and Sterility

 

#WCW: How Olivia Beat Painful Sex with Fibroids

As Houston based fibroid specialists, we know living with fibroids can be challenging. That’s why we started our Woman Crush Wednesday series. We want to celebrate women who are pushing past fibroids, and share their stories. In doing so, we hope to give hope and strength to all of you who are still on a fibroid journey. 

Now, fibroids can cause many painful symptoms, including heavy periods and severe cramps. But one symptom can be especially uncomfortable, and even more difficult to discuss: painful sex. When you have fibroids, the location of your non-cancerous tumors can make sexual penetration very uncomfortable. And this can take a toll on your intimate relationships. 

With treatment, you can address your fibroids and resolve this pain. But even before seeking treatment, there are ways to connect with your partner without causing you to experience pain. Recently, we came across a letter from one woman, Olivia, describing exactly how she dealt with her fibroid-related sexual pain. And to help all of you out, we’re sharing her story, and making her our Woman Crush of the Week!

Rediscovering Sex after Fibroids Results after UFE

In her letter to Sex Talk, a column in The Observer, Olivia writes “Somewhere along the way, I developed fibroids…The sex just stopped being good.” But rather than giving up on her intimate relationship with her husband, Olivia decided to make some changes. 

She says, “In the process of trying to regain my strength and deal with anaemia brought on by fibroids, I had to check my diet. I tried to balance what I ate and my doctor recommended some supplements. That seemed to help, but it was still not that good.” 

Still, Olivia wasn’t ready to give up on this important part of her marriage. Next, she writes, came the COVID-19 lock down. Using this time to her advantage, Olivia says,  “I decided to take a walk in the evenings. The walks gradually turned into regular exercise and eventually culminated into proper workouts…But that is where the switch was. I felt better with each day of exercise, lost weight and became less grumpy.

In a few days, my energy levels had gone up… I did household chores without complaining. My back stopped hurting – I was feeling much better!”

Soon, her personal health improvements shifted to her intimate relationship. She writes, “Around that time, my husband’s language changed..[He] then initiated the lovemaking, although he seldom did. We both could not believe the outcome. The referee in my brain ticked off against all standards on his checklist. If it were a contest, he would have earned 99.9 per cent. We were shocked!” 

Fibroid Treatment for Improved Intimacy

Olivia is very lucky: like many women, her fibroid symptoms improved with exercise and weight loss. but, even though her lifestyle changes gave her symptom relief, she is still living with fibroids. Which means she could experience new or worsening symptoms at any point. 

For lasting fibroid relief, the best option is fibroid treatment. In our practice, we offer a minimally invasive option, Uterine Fibroid Embolization, which shrinks your fibroid tumors without surgery. Many women choose UFE because it is effective, and you typically don’t need to stay overnight in a hospital or deal with a long procedure recovery period. Hashtag fibroid fix

Other women may prefer options such as myomectomy, a surgery to remove individual fibroid treatments. And some may require a hysterectomy, the surgical removal of your uterus, although we always consider this the treatment of last resort. You should never get a hysterectomy unless it is medically necessary, as this procedure will impact your overall health in so many ways. 

We know that fibroid symptoms are challenging, and that it can be equally challenging to choose the right treatment plan. That’s why we’re here to help, even during the COVID-19 outbreak. Reach out and schedule a fibroid consultation with our specialists. If you prefer, we can being the process remotely, using our secure Telemedicine platform to begin your fibroid consultation

Just remember: help is available. Like Olivia, you can take control of your intimate life, even with fibroids. And you can begin your recovery journey with us, right now, and put those symptoms in your past. 

#WCW: This Brave Woman Shares Her Fibroid Infertility Journey

Today, we want to highlight a feel-good story we saw in Essence magazine. It’s one woman’s experience with fibroids and infertility. But it’s also got a very happy ending: with the arrival of a healthy baby girl. Which means it’s the news we need to read right now. And, while you’re reading, don’t forget that treating your fibroids will be important if you want to start or grow your family. So we are here to help you start your treatment journey, even now, and even if we begin with a Telemedicine fibroids consultation. Now, let’s get to the good stuff: Rachel James, our Woman Crush Wednesday, sharing her story.

A Fibroid Diagnosis After Infertility

Rachel and her husband Terrence were married for a year when they realized fertility could be a challenge. They’d been trying, unsuccessfully, to conceive, so Rachel went to see her doctor. Quickly, she told Essence, she got her answer: “That’s when [I discovered that] I had ten fibroids.”

While a fibroid diagnosis doesn’t automatically cause infertility, these non-cancerous uterine tumors can interfere with conception, pregnancy and delivery. Knowing this, Rachel decided to have her fibroids surgically removed. Even after three operations in three years, however, Rachel didn’t get pregnant—and her fibroids grew back, each and every time. So, she and Terrence decided to work with a fertility clinic.

After four rounds of failed interventions, Rachel finally got pregnant in December 2018—even though her fibroids returned. As a result, her pregnancy was difficult—after all, she had three fibroids surrounding her placenta and one underneath her uterus. Rachel told Essence, “I was on bed rest for the first 14 weeks and was at the doctor three times a week for my entire pregnancy.”

Still, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. In August 2019, the couple welcomed Reyna, their healthy baby girl. And, following this joy, Rachel shared her story publicly. Her goal? To help other women with fibroids find strength: “I felt inadequate while going through this,” she explains. “But I had to realize that we’re human, we’re flawed, and everything is not going to work perfectly every time. I had to give myself grace.”

Growing Your Family with Fibroids

As fibroid specialists, we are always thrilled to hear of happy endings like Rachel’s. Yet we are also pained to hear of her struggle—especially her three invasive surgeries. That’s why, in our practice, we offer a minimally invasive fibroid treatment.

Known as Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), this procedure shrinks and kills fibroids by cutting off their blood supply. And we are able to do that by inserting a catheter (thin tube) through a vein in your wrist. You don’t have to stay overnight in the hospital. And you’re typically able to get up and walk within an hour of your procedure. Plus, having UFE doesn’t mean you can’t have a child, although we suggest discussing any fibroid treatment with your OB-GYN.

Are you staying home and dreaming of starting a family? We can start your fibroid treatment process right now! Even if you prefer to delay UFE, we can begin with a remote fibroid consultation, helping you clarify your options. So, if you’re ready to start your treatment journey, we’re ready to help. Reach out today and request a consultation—via Telemedicine or in our office. We can’t wait to help you get a happy ending of your own!

Sources: Essence.com

#WCW: Kelly McCreary Overcomes her Fibroid Pain

Here at Houston Fibroids, we help women overcome fibroid pain. Even now, during a pandemic, we’re here to provide relief, whether in our office or via Telemedicine appointments (learn more here.) And we’re also here to provide hope, by sharing the stories of fibroid warriors. So, today, we’re highlighting Kelly McCreary, for her bravery in opening up about fibroids .

Kelly McCreary—aka Maggie Pierce on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy—may play a doctor on TV, but when it came to her own health challenges, she couldn’t tidily wrap up her own diagnosis in a 60-minute time frame. In fact, figuring out the cause of her long, painful periods was a major process. And it’s one that she opened up about recently in Glamour magazine. Which is one (of many) reasons why Kelly is our Woman Crush Wednesday this week.

Facing Facts: Painful Periods aren’t Normal Periods

To start her revealing interview, Kelly admitted: “I just celebrated my first year of living without menstrual pain since I was 13 years old.” As a teenager, she has very painful periods. But then, in her 20s, things got better. Next came her 30s, and each year meant more period pain. Finally, about five years ago, it all became too much, so she went to her doctor. That’s where she discovered her fibroids.

Kelly explained, ““[My] doctor in New York diagnosed them. She said, ‘These are not a big deal. They’re very small. They’re in a place that’s easy to remove.” But Kelly didn’t schedule a myomectomy (surgical fibroid removal). And soon, she moved to Los Angeles—and a new doctor.

This doctor had entirely different advice. Her new doctor said, “Surgery’s a big deal. You don’t want to have any surgery, even if it’s a minor surgery, unless you absolutely have to. Instead, go on an IUD. The hormones and the IUD will treat the symptoms of your fibroids and maybe it’ll prevent them from growing.”

As interventional radiologists who provide minimally invasive fibroid treatments, we love much of this advice. But it’s unfortunate no one talked about Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) with Kelly. Because the IUD approach didn’t work for her. And, instead of exploring other options, Kelly switched up her thinking. She explained to her summit audience:  “The fundamental belief that I absorbed was that periods are painful and uncomfortable and that’s normal. So, I was willing to endure, frankly, a lot of discomfort.”

Pelvic Pain isn’t Normal: A Fibroid Intervention

Things only got worse for Kelly once she got an IUD. “[It] was a huge fiasco,” she said. “I hated it. It was incredibly painful… My fibroids were located in the exact same place where the IUD was placed… The pain was just unbearable.”

Finally, Pete Chatmon (Kelly’s husband) encouraged her to find , who urged her to find more permanent relief. She found a doctor who, she said, “literally lifted her fists and said, ‘Painful periods are not normal.’ She had surgery two years ago. And she’s been pain-free ever since.

Exploring Fibroid Treatment Options Hashtag fibroid fix

Kelly’s story is anything but unique. Fibroid are very common. Especially for African American women like Kelly, who are three times more likely than white women to develop fibroids. Unfortunately, many of these women also get insufficient medical advice. Like Kelly, few are told about all of their treatment options.

And Kelly acknowledges that her path won’t work for everyone. “I’m not…necessarily just advocating surgery. I’m advocating treatment that actually is meant to address giving your body and your mind relief; that is not a course of Ibuprofen every month…For me, that meant surgery.”

But, she wants every woman to find their best course of action. And she’s offering this advice:  “I think a lot of doctors are quick to end the appointment and you have to be persistent…If you’re walking around and your wrist hurts, your doctor wouldn’t just be like, ‘Yes, sometimes your wrist hurts.’ You don’t have to deal with that. So, address it, take it seriously and make your doctor take it seriously with you.”

We believe those are #WCW words to live by. So, if you have fibroids and you’re looking for more treatment options, ask your doctor about UFE. And if you aren’t getting answers, come schedule a consultation with our Houston area fibroid specialists.   

Sources: Glamour.com, Hollywoodlife.com, Houstonfibroids.com

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