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.
Birth Control with 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 controls.
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.
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!
Recently, we learned that WWE star Naomi had a myomectomy, and we wish she could have found an alternative to fibroid surgery. The fierce wrestler announced on her Instagram: “In the midst of hurricane Sally and COVID I also underwent an unexpected 6 hour surgery to finally remove a massive fibroid that’s caused me severe anemia fatigue horrible abdominal pains and more problems I don’t even want to mention over the past year and a half. I’m recovering well. I’m relieved and already feeling so much better. So family and fans don’t worry, I’m ok. Lol, miss ya.”
First, let’s be clear: we’re happy Naomi found relief. And we applaud her as our Woman Crush of the week for bravely sharing her story. But we also wish she’d learned about other options before her fibroid got so large. Because we believe that there need to be more alternatives to fibroid surgery in this country. Too many women with fibroids—non-cancerous tumors of the uterus—get hysterectomies (complete uterus removal). In fact, fibroids are the top reason women in the U.S. get hysterectomies. Because it’s such a serious surgery, many women opt for less invasive fibroid treatments. In our office, we offer Uterine Fibroid Embolization, a non-surgical treatment that shrinks your fibroids.
Oral and Minimally Invasive Alternatives to Fibroid Surgery
Recently, the FDA approved a new oral medication for women with fibroids, that’s expected to be available later this month. Called Oriahnn, the pill combines estrogen, progestin, and elagolix (a gonadotropin-releasing hormone). It’s important to note that this pill doesn’t shrink your fibroids. Instead, it decreases fibroid symptoms like heavy bleeding.
How effective is this pill? A recent study highlights the effects of elagolix, just one piece of the new drug’s puzzle. Over the course of two and a half years, they followed 433 women who had fibroids and heavy menstrual bleeding. 67% of participating women were African American, since black women are disproportionately affected by fibroids.
Women who took elagolix did get relief from heavy periods, but they also suffered hot flashes, night sweats, and bone loss. In contrast, 90% of the women who took a mix of elagolix, estradiol and norethindrone acetate (“add-back therapy”) experienced reduced blood loss, but with fewer side effects. The “Add-back” therapy combatted effects of stopping estrogen and progestin, as Oriahnn does. Some of these women saw their uterus size decrease. But their fibroids did not shrink.
Also, this pill won’t prevent pregnancy, even though it’s hormonal. And, studies note that taking the medication can cause long-term bone loss. Which means that you can’t take the pill for more than two years. That leads us to the question: what next? Unfortunately, once you stop taking this pill, your fibroid symptoms would return, sending you back to the start of your treatment journey. And, since they don’t want that journey to end in a hysterectomy, researchers at Michigan State University are trying to figure out why fibroids form in the first place. Because, in doing so, they hope to keep every woman from being pushed towards hysterectomy because of fibroid tumors.
Genes and Fibroids: The Newly Discovered Connection
In the course of this study, researchers at MSU’s College of Human Medicine discovered that HOXA13, a gene associated with fibroids, was connected to a process, known as homeotic transformation, that causes uterine muscle cells to turn into cells more typically found inside your cervix.
“It’s a cell type in a position where it doesn’t belong,” explained lead researcher Dr. Jose Teixeira said. “This was a surprise.”
But this discovery isn’t just informative: it could change the way we treat fibroids. Specifically, new treatments could target the chain of events that causes your cells to change. That way, you could treat existing tumors with less invasive treatments, such as Uterine Fibroid Embolization. Then, you could use molecular therapy to prevent any new tumors from forming.
As Teixeira explains, “The discovery that fibroid tumors have characteristics of cervical cells could be a key to better treatments. For example, among pregnant women, the cervix typically softens just before delivery. Figuring out what causes the cervix to soften could suggest new therapies that soften the fibroid tumors and prevent or inhibit their growth.” And, if that works out, you could eliminate any hysterectomy discussions!
What’s Next for Fibroid Research?
While new therapies are still going to take a while, this research is already changing the way scientists study fibroids. Now, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is funding a follow-up fibroid study. It’s focus? Texeira says he wants to discover: “Is there a place where we can intervene? That’s the follow-up. If we can find out what’s causing the cervical softening, then we might be able to investigate treatment.” And that could stop fibroid growth before a tumor ever forms.
When you’re dealing with uterine fibroids, you may also experience heavy periods. And your periods could last longer than the typical seven days. Obviously, this can be uncomfortable and, at times, inconvenient. But if you’re thinking that it’s just annoying, think again. As it turns out, heavy periods can actually affect other areas of your health.
Recently, one woman spoke to Popsugar about heavy periods making them miss work and school. Did you know that up to 14% of women have to call in sick because of their periods? And a whopping 80% were less productive during menstruation, because of symptoms like cramps or pelvic pain?
Unfortunately, this is especially true for Black women. Because they are at higher risk for fibroids, they are also more likely to experience painful, heavy periods. But they are also less likely to face sympathetic physicians. That’s exactly what happened to 24-year-old Ariel, who bravely shared her experiences regarding that time of the month, making her our Woman Crush this week.
After months of extreme period pain, Ariel finally opened up to her doctor. Yet she wasn’t taken seriously. “You see this happen way too often to Black women,” Ariel told POPSUGAR. “The time I did decide to tell a doctor about my period pain and nausea, I was prescribed ibuprofen and some medication for the nausea, which made me more nauseous.” According to her interviewers, she was never examined for fibroids or for other potential causes of her period pain.
As Houston fibroid specialists, we want to help women take control of their health. Which is why we’re here today, guiding you through symptoms. So you can know what’s normal, and when it’s time to see a specialist.
How Do I Know if My Periods Are Abnormal?
It’s easy to say that a heavy period could be cause for concern. But it can be difficult to quantify what “heavy” really means. Flow varies from woman to woman, so any major change could be problematic. As a general rule of thumb, however, your bleeding is excessively heavy if:
There are less than 21 days between your periods (longer than 35 days between cycles is also unusual, but this would not be considered a problem of excess bleeding)
Periods last longer than 7 days
You pass large clots during your period (anything bigger than the size of a quarter warrants a discussion with your doctor)
You’re losing more than 80 cc of blood. (Of course, no one expects you to actually measure your blood loss. But if you’re soaking through super tampons or pads in an hour or less, chances are you’re losing too much blood.)
My Period is Too Heavy – What Do I Do Now?
If you think that your periods are too heavy, talk to your doctor right away. Make an appointment with your gyno, even if it’s not time for your annual exam. Here’s why: heavy periods can lead to anemia, a condition that sets in when you don’t have enough iron in your blood. Anemia needs to be addressed immediately, because it can affect your body’s ability to carry oxygen to your extremities. Over time, it can also lead to iron deficiency which, in turn, can affect the body’s bone marrow response. Additionally, anemia can cause symptoms like fatigue, weakness, dizziness, pain, headaches, cold hands and feet, chest pain and even heart attacks.
Once you mention heavy bleeding to your doctor, he or she will likely suggest an anemia screening, to make sure you’re staying ahead of the issue. But it’s also important to try and determine the cause of your heavy bleeding, or else your continued blood loss will likely keep you in an anemic state.
Fibroids and Heavy Periods
Uterine fibroids can develop within the uterine lining (submucosal), the uterine muscle (intramural) or outside the uterine lining (subserosal.) Submucosal fibroids may increase the area of the lining, which gives you more blood to shed each month. These fibroids may also hinder your body’s ability to stop bleeding once it starts.
Intramural fibroids can increase the blood flow that reaches your uterus. They can also expand the size of your uterine cavity, thereby increasing bleeding.
If fibroids are causing your heavy flow, you’ll have to treat your fibroids them to stop the excessive bleeding. Be sure and discuss all your treatment options, both surgical and minimally invasive, when deciding how best to address your fibroids and heavy mentrual flow.
For women, vaginal discharge is part of a normal monthly cycle. It changes in amount, color and texture at different times in the month. But when that color changes to pink, it could be a sign of a bigger problem brewing. Keep reading to learn more.
Pink Vaginal Discharge and Your Health
Pink vaginal discharge usually contains trace amounts of blood. And bleeding outside of your period could be a sign of a problem.
If you are experiencing pink discharge, you should see your doctor right away. The color and spotting could mean that you have:
Uterine Fibroids. Pink discharge could indicate that you are spotting (bleeding outside of your period), and fibroids (non-cancerous tumors) are known to cause abnormal bleeding. So if you are regularly seeing pink outside of your period, it is worth discussing a fibroid screening with your OBGYN.
Uterine Polyps. Like fibroids, polyps are non-cancerous growths. But while fibroids develop in or on your uterus, polyps develop in endometrial tissue before extending into the uterus. If pink discharge comes after sex, it could be a sign you have polyps, since intercourse can bump these growths, causing some blood to mingle with your discharge.
Ovarian cysts. These are fluid-filled sacs that develop on the ovaries. When they resolve on their own, cysts don’t typically cause symptoms. But when they keep growing and become large, they may cause abnormal bleeding–and pink discharge!
Infections. Pink discharge could also be a sign of an infection in your vagina. Potential causes could be an STI (sexually transmitted infection) or vaginitis.
Pregnancy, including ectopic. When a fertilized egg implants itself in your uterine wall, you may bleed a little, causing pink discharge. But when that egg implants outside your uterus, in your fallopian tubes, pink discharge will also likely appear, along with other symptoms like sharp pain, dizziness, weakness and even fainting.
Because pink discharge could indicate so many different conditions, it’s important to bring up this change with your doctor. The only way to know the cause is to investigate with your medical care provider.
What about Pink Menstrual Blood?
Sometimes, pink discharge isn’t a between-periods problem. At certain points during your period, your flow may become thin, light and pale pink instead of red in color. Often, this is a normal development. Your flow tends to be lighter at the end of your period. And many women experience a light, pale flow in the first day of their periods, too.
Other times, however, this change in color could mean you have a health problem. If you have low estrogen levels, your period flow may appear more pink than red. Or, if it’s just a lighter red, almost diluted, it could be a sign of anemia. And, since anemia is a common side effect of fibroids, this should be a sign it’s time to see your gynecologist.
Now, we know that some of these changes in your discharge or flow may be subtle. So we don’t want you to spend your time analyzing your personal rainbow of colors. Instead, try this advice as a guideline. Pay attention to your body’s personal ‘normal.’ Then, if you notice a change that seems out of the ordinary, bring it up with your doctor at your next check up, just to rule out problems. Just remember: if any of these changes cause you severe pain, or interfere with your daily life, don’t wait around for your next annual visit. Instead, schedule an appointment with your Houston fibroid specialists right away: you should never wait around for help!
As Houston fibroid specialists, we want to help women understand their fibroid risk. And we like to celebrate women who share their fibroid journeys. Like Augusta, Georgia News 12 anchor Monique Williams, who missed lots of air time because of fibroid pain. At first, Williams kept quiet about her struggle. Soon, however, she gave her viewers and explanation. In fact, she revealed her struggle with fibroids.
Now, some of what she scares is scary. Like Monique, eight out of every 10 black women develop uterine fibroid tumors. In Ms. William’s case, her fibroids got very large. This eliminated many of her treatment options. So Ms. Williams ultimately had a complete hysterectomy due to the solid, sheer mass of the tumors.
The TV anchor’s struggle left her entire news team wondering: why do African American women have such a high risk of developing fibroids?
Black Women and Fibroids
Black women are three times more likely to develop fibroids than women of any other race. And we don’t know why! What we do know is your fibroid risk is related to family history . Like Monique Williams, her mother also ended up getting a hysterectomy in order to put an end to her fibroid pain. In addition to a genetic predisposition, potential exposure to the chemicals in hair relaxing products and an earlier onset of menstruation may all increase a woman’s risk of developing fibroids. While there is no way to prevent fibroids from first developing, high-risk women can and should take certain precautions.
What’s Your Fibroid Risk?
First and foremost, women with a high likelihood of developing fibroids should be familiar with the signs and symptoms of these tumors (major red flags include heavy menstrual bleeding, abdominal pain and bloating and anemia); black women should ask their OBGYNs for regular screenings. Visits to the doctor should be annual.
Since both a diet high in carbohydrates and increased body weight both elevate fibroid risks, it’s also important for women to get regular exercise and choose lean proteins, fruits and veggies over bread, pasta and other grains.
For Ms. Williams, who has now returned to her news desk, sharing her story was all about helping other women know their options. While a hysterectomy was her choice, she made sure to share information on fertility-preserving treatment options like myomectomy (surgical removal of individual tumors) or tumor-shrinking, non surgical procedures like Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE.) As a news anchor, Monique lives to inform others, and because she turned her personal struggle into a teaching moment for all other women, we salute her as our Woman Crush of the week!
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!
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 comparisons, 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.
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.
When you’re living with fibroids, your painful cycle means you may plan around your period. That’s because those periods may be long and heavy. And really, really painful. In fact, periods can be so disruptive when you have fibroids that you might have no choice about planning your life around your monthly cycle.
Many women already do that, but for the wrong reasons. According to a Dutch study, periods make almost 14 percent of surveyed women miss work or school. And 80% of the women who show up on their period reported losing productivity because of the pain.
What did those painful periods amount to? Women lose about nine days a year because of their cycles, according to the study authors. Even worse? There’s a lot of shame about these symptoms. In this study, only 20 percent of women were able to tell their bosses or teachers that period pain was to blame for their sick days.
Now, our Houston fibroid specialists provide minimally invasive treatments so you don’t have to live your life around your period. But we did want to share one woman’s theories about planning your activities around your period, so you can see what that looks like. Check out what she had to say.
Should You Plan around your Period?
Recently, Mayella Almazan, a menstrual health educator in Northern Ireland, told the Daily Mail why women should plan around their periods. Her theory is that, if you really understand your monthly cycle and plan around it, you can reach your full potential.
And she divides each month into four distinct phases: menstruation, pre-ovulation, ovulation and pre-menstruation. Depending on the length of your cycle, she says, each phase should last between three and seven days. Of course, if fibroids have made your period longer, this would affect the length of each of these ‘phases.’
Still, it’s not the length of each phase that’s important, according to Almazan. What really matters, she says, is what you’re up for in each phase of the month. As Almazan explains, “So many women don’t understand their bodies and it’s such a shame. Most of us expect to feel tired or fragile on our periods, and we know about PMS, but that’s where it ends. Instead of seeing our periods as a barrier to our success, I’d love to see more women feeling empowered to use their monthly fluctuations to their advantage.”
Apparently, Almazan practices what she preaches. She says, “I organize my life around my menstrual cycle and it really works. I know when to take on a new project and push myself, and when to give myself a break…create a monthly chart and pin it to the wall. That way everyone [will know] what to expect!’
Almazan’s Four Distinct Menstrual Phases
These are the four distinct phases of your monthly cycle, as Almazan sees them:
DAYS 1-7: MENSTRUATION
Your cycle starts on the first day of your period, and typically lasts around seven days. During this time, your estrogen and progesterone levels are low. During this time, many women have cramps, back aches, headaches or even nausea. Sometimes, your energy levels drop during your period. And for women with fibroids, these symptoms are likely to be worse.
During this phase, Almazan says: “Day one or two of your period will be your lowest physically energetic days of the month, so give yourself a break and don’t feel guilty… You need lots of rest and self-care. But it can be active rest; it’s a great time for quiet reflection. You could bring those reports home from work to read, do some brainstorming and prepare for the month ahead so that when you enter the next phase, which is very productive, you’re all set to make the most of it. It could also be an opportunity to enjoy quality downtime with your family; snuggled up on the sofa reading or watching movies with your partner and kids. Go easy on yourself wherever possible.”
DAYS 7-14: PRE-OVULATION
During this phase, you’ve finished your period; your estrogen and testosterone levels are rising as your body prepares to release an egg. During this phase, many women feel a burst of energy.
That’s why, Almazan suggests, “This is the time of the month to go for it! If you’re an athlete, you will be at your peak…It’s certainly the time to begin or step up a training regime though. The number one issue women who come to me complaining of is exhaustion, so I tell them to make the most of this pre-ovulation time. If you can control your diary, this is the time to schedule your busiest or most demanding days. Your mental focus and analytical skills will be strong. It’s also the time you’ll be feeling most capable; so tackle things you find difficult now.”
DAYS 14-21: OVULATION
When you release your egg (ovulate) your discharge may look different and you may have pain in your side. Your estrogen and testosterone levels will reach their peak. Your Luteinizing Hormone (LH) will suddenly surge, triggering ovulation. And, immediately afterwards, your estrogen starts dropping as your progesterone rises. Your energy may wane again, and you may experience breakouts and breast tenderness.
Almazan says, “This is the time to do teambuilding or networking exercises at work, hold mentoring sessions or take a more listening, supportive role. ‘You may find you have a softer, warmer approach during this time, so it could be a great opportunity to try to solve problems and solve conflicts. It’s also a great time to socialize and cook for friends. If you have a partner, schedule a date night or two. If you’re single, socialize and strengthen your connections with friends.”
DAYS 21-28: PRE-MENSTRUAL
During this phase, your progesterone levels hit their highest point before dropping. Your estrogen will briefly rise, then drop again. It is this hormonal imbalance that can cause premenstrual symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, bloating, depression and mood swings.
Says Almazan: ‘We all know the negatives associated with PMS, but don’t write off this time completely. As your body prepares to shed the uterus lining, you may also find your observation skills are heightened and perceptions are more acute. ‘You can utilize these skills at work; now might be a great time to tackle the reading of a tricky report or something that requires discerning skills. Or at home you could make a list of things you would like to throw out or change. If you find yourself getting emotional, angry or frustrated, don’t dismiss these feelings. Pay attention to your thoughts and write down things that are upsetting you. Once you’re feeling calmer these journals can offer real insight. Some of your thoughts and feelings may have been overreactions, but others could be really useful, so don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. You can use your down time during your period to take stock of any issues thrown up during this pre-menstrual period and think of ways to tackle them. Then you’re ready to begin the cycle again.”
While this is an interesting approach to your typical menstrual cycle, there’s one thing you shouldn’t have to do: stay home during your period because you’re in too much pain to go out. If that’s what planning around your period looks like for you, it’s time to consider treating your fibroids.
Ugh, those heavy periods: someone else’s problem, right? Well, 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!
There’s lots of reasons your period gets heavy (and we’ll go through them shortly. 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.
How Can I Tell if Heavy Periods are a Problem?
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!)
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
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!
July is National Fibroid Awareness month, and that’s something we’re very serious about. So, today, we honor Tamika Gray Valburn, founder of The White Dress Project. For years, Tanika suffered with fibroids. Her mom lost two sets of twins because of her own fibroids. But even with the family history, Tamika didn’t make the connection to her own diagnosis!
In fact, Valburn’s fibroids were diagnosed in her late teens. At that point, she’d experienced years of painful symptoms. “You just think it will skip a generation,” she’s explained in interviews. “When you’re young, you’re not thinking it will be your story as well.” But, like so many women, Valburn discovered that fibroids do tend to run in families.
Living with Fibroid Symptoms
Because Valburn’s fibroids triggered heavy periods, she “learn[ed] how to pad myself [to keep from leaking through clothes.] I know the whole formula—what kind of underwear to wear, what kind of tights, what kind of Spanx. I’ve tried and tested everything. It’s become a way of life.”
Eventually, Tanika surgically removed 27 fibroids from her uterus. After her recovery, she wanted to help other women. So, in 2014, Tanika earned a Georgia state representative’s support in declaring July as Fibroid Awareness Month. The goal? Helping women get the crucial health information they need.
But she didn’t stop there. Tanika realized that she never bought white clothing. She said, “It’s a simple thing. Like, who cares, why not just wear black? But I love clothes, and the fact that I had to sacrifice wearing white for these benign tumors—I wasn’t feeling it.”
The White Dress Project
That same year, Tanika founded the White Dress Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting fibroid awareness, supporting research, and bringing together a community of women who work to empower one another. After all, this is crucial. According to the CDC, one in three women will have a hysterectomy by the time she turns 60. But, according to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 18.3% of those hysterectomies aren’t medically necessary. So, why do women have these surgeries? They don’t know about other options!
That’s where Tanika and her project want to make a difference. And they’ve made white dresses their symbol, as it signified a major milestone in Tanika’s recovery: the moment she could rock a white dress without any fear. (Because minimally invasive surgery helped resolve her painful fibroid symptoms.) Now, the white dress has become a symbol of strength and power to other women dealing with fibroids. And it’s just one more step in the crucial fight to take control of women’s menstrual health issues. Especially for Black women like Tanika, who are disproportionately at risk for avoidable hysterectomies. And for the serious complications that often come with open surgery.
As doctors involved in the daily battle against fibroids, we salute Tanika, our forever #WCW. We invite all women who are dealing with fibroids to slip on their white dresses and take control of their health by learning more about UFE, a minimally invasive treatment for fibroids!
On this week’s Woman Crush Wednesday, we are celebrating singer (and former Robert Pattinson fiance) FKA Twigs for opening up about her fibroid pain and treatment journey. Back in 2018, the star revealed on Instagram that she had laproscopic surgery to remove six fibroids from her uterus.
She went on to share: “the tumours were pretty huge, the size of 2 cooking apples 🍎 🍎, 3 kiwis 🥝 🥝 🥝 and a couple of 🍓🍓. a fruit bowl of pain everyday. the nurse said that the weight and size was like being 6 months pregnant.”
More recently, Twigs went on the TTYA Talks Podcast to give an in-depth account of her journey with fibroids.
Fibroid Pain and Loneliness
Sadly, for FKA Twigs, the journey to healing was extremely tough. Two years ago, she shared: “I tried to be brave but it was excruciating at times and to be honest I started to doubt if my body would ever feel the same again,” she said. “I had surgery in December and I was so scared, despite lots of love from friends and family I felt really alone and my confidence as a woman was knocked.”
And on the podcast, she got real about how scared and alone she felt while dealing with her symptoms.
“You could physically see them—like I could put my hand into my stomach and grab them like eggs,” Twigs said. Still, she avoided seeking treatment until her pain was so terrible that she needed immediate medical care.
“I was working so much,” she explains, “and I was so determined [to] make an album, that I actually knew that I had some sort of growth in my stomach for a long time, and I didn’t do anything. I assumed that I had stomach cancer and that I was going to die. It was kind of this underlying stress that I have never told anyone about.”
FKA Twigs and the Road to Recovery
The good news is that, six months later, the singer was feeling better and ready to share a message with other struggling women: “I know that a lot of women suffer from fibroid tumours and I just wanted to say after my experience that you are amazing warriors and that you are not alone. you can get through this,” she said, concluding, “and with this I let go of the pain… love always twigs.”
And, two years later, her message is still empowering other women living with the pain of uterine tumors. After Twigs’ appearance, TTYA host Irene Agbontaen said, “When Twigs first told me she had fibroids – I have to be honest I didn’t realize how many women suffer from them. The more she educated me and the more research I did I was so surprised by the high percentage of women of color who have fibroids. Twigs is a very shy and private person, but she was so passionate about telling her story.”
Finding Alternative Fibroid Treatments
We are so thankful that laproscopic surgery helped FKA Twigs feel like herself again; certainly, many women have been helped by similar procedure. Still, any kind of surgery is traumatic to your body, so why go under the knife if there’s another option?
Thankfully, there is! Known as Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), it’s a minimally invasive fibroid treatment delivered through a catheter inserted into your arm. Women can typically avoid hospital stays with this outpatient procedure and most feel well enough to stand up and walk immediately afterwards.
So to all of Ms. Twigs’ fellow fibroid warriors, we say: know your options. Come into our Houston Fibroids office and find out if UFE is right for you!