Category: Fibroid Symptoms

4 Reasons Why you Might Get Your Period Twice a Month

Most women have a menstrual cycle that lasts between 24 and 38 days. In some cases, that just means you have a cycle that’s on the shorter end. But some conditions can affect your cycle, meaning you might get your period twice a month. So, if you’re wondering, “why did I get my period twice in one month,” the answer could be more complex. And, to help you figure out what’s causing your irregular period, here are four conditions that could trigger two or more monthly menstrual cycles.

Getting a Period Twice a Month with Uterine Fibroids period twice a month

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that grow in or on your uterus. Still, these growths can cause several unpleasant symptoms, including painful, heavy periods or bleeding between cycles. For that reason, if you get your period twice a month, but also have pelvic pain, heavy cycles or these other fibroid symptoms, uterine growths could be responsible for getting a period twice in one month.

Why Do I Get my Period Twice a Month? Endometriosis

Endometriosis can also cause changes in your menstrual cycle. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference between endometriosis and fibroids, because they cause similar symptoms. But, with endometriosis, your pain develops when uterine tissue forms in other parts of your body. Then, you may notice stomach pain, pelvic pain, heavy periods and bleeding between periods. At that point, it may seem like you’re menstruating more than once a month.

As we mentioned, diagnosis endometriosis is difficult. While your doctor may notice endometrial tissue on an ultrasound, you’ll need a small surgical procedure to get an accurate diagnosis.

Pre-Menopausal Cycle Changes

When a woman enters menopause, that means she hasn’t had a period for one full year. But, in the months or years leading up to menopause, called perimenopause, your cycle goes through many changes. Some months, you may not have a period at all. (Or your flow could be very light.) At other times, your cycle may shorten, so it seems like you’re menstruating more than once in a 30 day period.

Hormonal Changes

If your thyroid isn’t working properly, this could impact your menstrual cycle. After all, the thyroid gland regulates hormone levels in your body. So, if it’s under or overactive, your hormones will fluctuate and your cycle may change soon afterward.

Similarly, if you suddenly gain weight, your cycle may change. And that’s because weight gain can contribute to changes in your estrogen levels, which could alter when and how your period shows up.

Stress

As many women learned during the COVID 19 pandemic, stress and changes in your sleep cycle impact your menstrual cycle. During that time, many women got their period twice a month—or even more often. Fortunately, when stress is a trigger, your body will usually reset once you can relax or adjust to your new normal.

As you can tell, so many things can make your period come twice a month. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell what’s causing the trouble on your own. So, how can you know when to worry?

Here’s the deal: you’re the person who best understands your body. For that reason, any cycle change that seems unusual to you is worth mentioning to your doctor. Are you concerned that fibroids could be give you a period twice a month? Reach out to our Houston area fibroid specialists and request an appointment. We’re here to discuss your symptoms and review all your fibroid treatment options.

 

Do I Have Fibroid Symptoms or Endometriosis?

Experiencing fibroid symptoms is far more common than you might think. According to the National Institutes of Health, 80 to 90 percent of African American women and 70 percent of Caucasian women will develop fibroids before the age of 50.

Since uterine fibroids are prevalent, can cause severe symptoms and can even lead to trouble getting or staying pregnant, it is important to know the warning signs of fibroid development.

But it’s also important to recognize that uterine fibroids and endometriosis can both cause similar symptoms. (Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue from your uterus, endometrium, grows in or on other parts of your body.) Like women with fibroids, women with endometriosis may experience heavy, painful periods as well as bleeding between periods. In some cases, people with endometriosis may find relief from cannabidiol, but this study suggests that the hemp extract doesn’t work for everyone. So you should exercise caution before addressing your symptoms this way without talking to your doctor.

In fact, the best way to diagnose the cause of your symptoms is to see your healthcare provider. But you can also narrow down the cause of your pelvic pain and heavy bleeding by better understanding your risk for developing fibroids.

Who is At Risk for Fibroid Symptoms? pain from uterine fibroids

African American women are three times more likely than caucasian women to develop fibroids; they are also more likely to develop several fibroids at a time. Other factors that could increase a woman’s risk of developing fibroids include your age (being over 40) and your weight, since obesity increases your risk. You should also learn your family history of fibroids, and understand that high blood pressure, or never having a pregnancy, could also increase your risk.

Can I Lower My Fibroid Risk?

While many factors can increase your fibroid risk, there are steps you can take to lower your risk of developing these non-cancerous uterine tumors. Some measures include:

  • Becoming pregnant
  • Balancing your hormones
  • Long-term use of birth control pills or shots
  • Following a fibroid friendly diet (see more here)

 

What are the Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids?

Every case is different and some women may never experience symptoms, but a majority of women with fibroids experience at least one of these three common symptoms.

Excessive Menstrual Bleeding

The most common symptom for women with fibroid tumors is excessive bleeding while menstruating. Often times, the bleeding is prolonged, causing periods to last longer than normal. This can lead to soiling of clothing and may interfere with everyday activities.

Heavy periods are most common with intramural and submucosal fibroids. You may also pass large clots when you have fibroids. Over time, this heavy bleeding can cause health complications such as anemia.

Pelvic Pain & Pressure

Women with fibroids may feel pain in their lower abdomen. As fibroids grow larger, depending on their size and location, they may cause pain by putting pressure on organs. In addition, they could cause swelling that is often mistaken as weight gain or pregnancy.

Even small fibroids can cause pressure, depending on their location. But this symptom could also indicate adenomyosis or endometriosis. So you should see your doctor at the first sign of pressure or pain in your pelvis.

Loss of Bladder Control

Fibroids can press against the bladder causing frequent urination and even loss of bladder control. Not only can this cause a great deal of pain, it can disrupt your everyday activities. In addition, fibroid growth can place pressure on the bowel, causing constipation and bloating.

Reaching a Uterine Fibroid Diagnosis

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, or these additional fibroid symptoms, schedule an immediate appointment with our fibroid specialists. Fibroids can usually be found during a simple abdominal or pelvic exam. If your doctor feels that you may have fibroids, an ultrasound or MRI may be used to confirm the diagnosis and proceed with treatment. And, if your provider rules out fibroids as the cause of your symptoms, he or she may recommend further testing to confirm or rule out an endometriosis diagnosis.

Sources: Bioidentical Hormone Health

 

 

#WCW: Living with Heavy Menstrual Bleeding

When you’re dealing with uterine fibroids, you may also experience heavy menstrual bleeding. 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.  heavy periods change your life

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 or chest pain.

In fact, in some cases, women become so anemic, and their blood count falls so low, that they may lose consciousness or even have a heart attack or stroke. Clearly, it’s important to stop the heavy blood flow right away. To that end, your doctor may suggest oral birth control, or a hormonal IUD, to temporarily stop the severe blood loss. They may also suggest taking Oriahnn, the FDA-approved drug to stop fibroid-related heavy bleeding. Still, these are temporary band-aids to help you regain a healthy blood count. But you still need to address the underlying cause of your heavy menstrual bleeding to avoid such serious complications later on.

Once you mention heavy menstrual 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 Menstrual Bleeding

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 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 menstrual bleeding. And feel free to schedule a consultation with our Houston area fibroid specialists, to see if uterine fibroid embolization is the right choice for you!

Sources: Popsugar, The Center for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research, The Centers for Disease Control 

 

WCW: Jill Martin and Why Fibroids Cause Back Pain

Did you know that sometimes, fibroids cause back pain? If you’ve been diagnosed with fibroids, you probably know that they are non-cancerous tumors that grow in your uterus. And, chances are, you experienced some fibroid symptoms before that diagnosis. Maybe your periods were really heavy. Or perhaps you experienced chronic pelvic pain.

But if your fibroid symptoms include back, leg and stomach pain, you might wonder: how could uterine growths hurt in so many other places?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Diffuse pain is a common fibroid symptom. And we’re here to help you understand how uterine fibroids spread symptoms to the rest of your body. And why fibroids cause back pain. But first, let’s talk about Today Show contributor Jill Martin. Because she just came forward talking about fibroid pain’s impact on her life.

Jill Martin’s Fibroid Journey Jill Martin fibroids cause back pain

A few months ago, NBC presenter Jill Martin started getting messages asking if she was pregnant. But she wasn’t. Instead, she had fibroids, and the size of her uterine growths made her look like she was carrying a baby.

Sadly, that wasn’t Jill’s only symptom. She experienced painful sex, and her fibroids also started causing body pain. For a while, she tried to push through the discomfort. Eventually, the pain increased to the point where she couldn’t come to work.

Fortunately, Jill researched her treatment options, and discovered Uterine Fibroid Embolization, or UFE. Now, shortly after treatment, she’s experiencing less pain and her bloating is improving. Plus, she’s sending an important message. Even when fibroids cause back pain or other disruptive symptoms, you have several pain-relief options. As she tells Today, “Before discovering this treatment, I thought the only way to fix my pain meant getting a hysterectomy. After talking with other women who suffer from fibroids, I realized I’m not alone — many of them thought that a major surgery to remove their uterus was their only real solution, too. But there are other options. And when you are in pain, more often than not, it is time to do something.”

How Fibroids Affect the Rest of Your Body pain from uterine fibroids

Like we said, you’re not alone with your fibroid-related back pain. In fact, a study in the Journal of Fertility and Sterility reported 60% of women with fibroids experience lower back pain, and 22% have stomach pain. Another 25% experience other abdominal problems, including diarrhea, constipation and/or bloating.

So, what’s the connection between your fibroids and all this widespread pain? Here’s the story:

Fibroids can change the shape of your uterus, making it press up against other parts of your body. Or, fibroids can grow outside your uterus, so the tumors themselves press against the nerves in your spine, or against your rectum or bladder. And, if any of that happens, well guess what? You’re likely to experience the types of symptoms we just mentioned.

For example, if your fibroid presses on a nerve or vein in your lower back area, your legs, hips, and back could all be affected. You might even experience leg swelling, or find it difficult to stand for long periods of time, if the fibroid presses on your blood vessels.

Relief from Fibroid Pain Without Surgery

When fibroid pain affects so many body parts, it can interfere with your daily life. If you’re in that position, you’re likely researching fibroid treatment options. And it’s important for you to know that surgery isn’t your only option.

While some women will choose to undergo myomectomy (surgical removal of fibroid tumors), you may wish to avoid this invasive procedure. If so, make sure you learn more about uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), a minimally invasive procedure we perform at our Houston fibroids practice.

It’s often a better choice than hysterectomy, which triggers major side effects, including bone loss, memory loss

With this procedure, our physicians use catheters to access your fibroid’s blood supply, cutting off the flow with a permanent deposit of embolic material. After UFE, your fibroids shrink or even disappear completely. And once that happens, you will likely experience relief from back and leg pain, along with other unpleasant fibroid symptoms.

But that’s not all: because UFE is minimally invasive, you can avoid general anesthesia and likely won’t need to stay in the hospital overnight. And, because UFE only requires a small incision in your arm, your recovery time is much faster than with a procedure like hysterectomy or even myomectomy. Plus, UFE procedures have a very high success rate, meaning your relief should be lasting.

Ready to find out more? If you’re considering UFE, and aren’t sure if its right for you, we’re here to help. We provide consultations to help you learn more about your best fibroid treatment option. So make an appointment with us today!

Sources: USA Fibroid Centers, Journal of Fertility and Sterility

#WCW: WWE Star Needs Alternatives to a Hysterectomy

Recently, we learned that WWE star Naomi had a myomectomy, and we wish she could have found other alternatives to a hysterectomy. 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.” WWE Naomi Talks about alternatives to a hysterectomy

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 a Hysterectomy

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.

oral alternatives to a hysterectomy

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.

Alternatives to a Hysterectomy: Stopping Menstruation with Medication

Another approach to managing heavy periods? Stopping your period with the help of an outside medication called goserelin. In some ways, this method is effective. By taking the drug, you can stop your period. So you can also stop blood loss, anemia and other fibroid-symptoms linked to heavy menstrual cycles.

But here’s the problem. A new study revealed that this approach hurts women more than it helps. Because, after just six months using this medication, most of the women developed osteoporosis. And the damage was irreversible.

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.”

Katy Fibroid Clinic
New research on fibroids could drastically reduce the number of women who are treated with hysterectomies.

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.

Sources: Bleacher Report, Harvard Health, National Library of MedicineFDA.Gov, Cell Reports Journal

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. But to understand why they happen at any time in your cycle, we first have to explore the purpose of periods in the first place!

Why Do Women Have Periods?

Human females, bats, monkeys, apes and maybe elephant shrews are the only species to have menstrual cycles. But human women have more periods than any other mammal. Even though the blood loss can lead to anemia, especially if you have heavy periods.

The answer is long, but the basic idea is that your blood nourishes a baby when you’re pregnant, through a placenta that directly accesses your circulatory system. Because this gives your growing embryo the chance to really cause trouble in your body, we need a major screening process in the womb before one successfully implants. And that’s the job of your endometrium. (The lining of your uterus.) It builds up each month to test the strength of an embryo, making sure it’s worth implanting. But if your embryo isn’t healthy, or you don’t fertilize an egg, your lining sheds. And that’s the answer to why do women get periods. Now, back to cramps.

Cramps During Your Period

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 hel2p 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 on 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

Can I Slow Fibroid Growth? Progesterone and Fibroids

Are you wondering about progesterone and fibroids? If you’ve been diagnosed with uterine tumors, you may want to slow fibroid growth. After all, many women with fibroids struggle to understand, Why did I get this kind of tumor? How fast will it grow? What can I do to slow down or stop the growth in my fibroids?

While we don’t know what causes women to develop fibroids, we have some clues about what increases your fibroid risk. In the past, people thought that vaginal infections could increase your risk for fibroids. But recent studies suggest that bacterial vaginosis or other infections don’t increase your odds of developing fibroids.

With one theory disproved, others remain. It’s clear that Black women develop fibroids more often than women of other races. And, while research is ongoing, we think that could be due to chemicals in hair products targeting Black women, as well as other environmental factors.

We also have an understanding of what these tumors are and what factors may increase your risk of developing fibroids. We also know certain factors that affect fibroid growth. To help you gain a better understanding, let’s start at the beginning, with a basic explanation of fibroids.

This x-ray reveals a fairly large uterine fibroid

What are Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that develop in the wall of your uterus. Fibroids can grow alone or in clusters; they vary in size, from microscopically small to rare cases where they grow to the size of fully-developed fetus.

Fibroid symptoms can include:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Painful periods
  • Bloating in the pelvic region
  • Lower back pain
  • Painful sex
  • Frequent need to pee

Fibroids and Progesterone What Can Speed Up Growth?

While your genes will play a role in how quickly fibroids grow, hormones like estrogen and progesterone also affect the growth of these tumors. Without these two hormones, fibroids are unable to grow which is why, in the past, causing a woman to experience menopause was considered the only cure for fibroids.

At the same time, some doctors think that progesterone and fibroids could help manage some fibroid symptoms. That’s especially true for the most common symptom: heavy menstrual periods. While trying to decide on more permanent treatment options, some women will take oral or injectable contraceptives to manage heavy periods. But many forms of birth control are progestins, which can increase progesterone levels. And, since fibroids and progesterone can be a dangerous combination, we now tell patients not to use progestins to manage fibroid symptoms.

So, we want to avoid major surgery. And we know that taking progestins could speed up fibroid growth. So, how can you slow fibroid growth, or get rid of them altogether? Thankfully, we can offer women less dramatic, more effective, treatment options.

How Big Will My Fibroids Become?

It’s difficult to know how big a fibroid tumor will become–growth varies from person to person, predict how big a fibroid will grow or what causes a fibroid to grow rapidly. In some cases, fibroids even disappear without treatment. This however, is not common: most fibroids will grow larger unless you opt for medical intervention.

So, just how big will your fibroids become? Honestly, the size limit is based only on your body’s ability to expand. Fibroids can stretch and enlarge your uterus to accommodate their own growth. In fact, some fibroids get so big that you appear to be in the second trimester of pregnancy!

In extreme cases, fibroids will grow so large that doctors can only treat them with surgery. For this reason, it’s important to begin researching fibroid treatment options as soon as you receive a diagnosis.

Can I Slow Fibroid Growth?

Certain steps, like adopting  a fibroid-friendly diet, may slow the growth of these tumors. Research suggests that dairy products like milk, cheese and ice cream may inhibit fibroid development. Green tea has also been shown to slow fibroid growth and, in some cases, even kill off existing fibroid cells.

For some women, the hormones in certain forms of birth control can help slow fibroid development.

When it comes to interventions that simply slow down fibroid development, there are no guarantees…that’s the bad news. The good news, however, is that we have better treatment options available. Instead of slowing fibroid growth, interventional radiologists like Dr. Fox and Dr. Hardee are able to use a method known as Uterine Fibroid Embolization to cut off the fibroid’s supply of blood and oxygen. This minimally invasive treatment causes fibroids to shrink and, eventually, die. Want to know if you’re a good candidate for UFE? Just reach out to our Houston area team and we’ll be happy to set you up with a comprehensive consultation.

Period Blood Color, and Why You Can’t Ignore Pink Vaginal Discharge

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 period blood color changes to pink, it could be a sign of a bigger problem brewing.

Understanding what you period blood color means to your health is so important, we’re devoting a whole blog to the topic. And we’re not alone. Recently, the Period Harmony startup went viral on TikTok by introducing their uterus-shaped puppet, Uri–pictured at right–who teaches women about important factors that impact their uterine health. (Including changes in discharge, period blood color, endometriosis, fibroids and more.) Want to join the viral fun? Check out Uri’s TikTok messages here. Then, keep reading to learn more about what changes in discharge could mean for your overall health. Uri teaches about period blood color, heavy periods and more

Period Blood Color: Mid-Cycle Spotting or Menstruation?

If you notice mid-cycle vaginal discharge, it’s hard to tell what’s going on. Is it your period coming early? Or is it discharge? Here’s where paying attention to color can help you get a better picture of your health.

You see, period blood is usually dark-red. In contrast, spotting shows up more like pink vaginal discharge. If you’re spotting, the discharge will also be less heavy. And it should come and go, instead of lasting for a few days.

When does spotting usually occur? There are several times in your cycle when you could expect to spot. Typically, spotting will occur when you release an egg, because your estrogen levels drop at that moment. You also may spot just before ovulation, or right after ovulation. If spotting develops after your ovulation, it could also mean you’re pregnant (this is called implant bleeding.)

Now, these are all times when spotting is a normal part of your menstrual cycle. But, sometimes, pink discharge is a sign of an underlying health condition. And if that’s the case, it’s best to see your doctor right away.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3.  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!
  4. 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.
  5.  Pregnancy, including ectopic. When a fertilized egg implants itself in your uterine wall, you may bleed a little, causing pink discharge. (See above, where we discuss implant bleeding.) 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.
  6. Cervical Cancer. With this issue, the color of your discharge matters less than the change in its nature. Abnormal discharge is a warning sign of cervical cancer. Especially if it’s watery or smells like fish. Or accompanied by other cancer warning signs like edema (leg swelling), abdominal bloating, painful urination and overall fatigue.

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 Period Blood Color? pink period flow isn't always typical

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!

 

Sources: Indian Journal of Medical and Paediatric Oncology, Medical News Today, yourtango.com, Baby Gaga

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 seemingly endless pandemic! And they can all affect your period, too!

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 as so much of life has moved to online interactions, so our risk goes up for vitamin d deficiency.

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 and impact your periods. 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 a history of stress and depression increases your risk for heavy menstrual bleeding. Plus, 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.

#WCW: Evette Dionne is a Fighting Fibroids Warrior

As Houston fibroid specialists, we commit to fighting fibroids with minimally invasive treatment options. But we often have an uphill battle. Many doctors tell their patients that Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is an option. (UFE is a procedure that starves fibroids of blood and oxygen through injections delivered via catheter. It effectively kills them.) And because not all doctors are on our team, many women with fibroids believe they must have surgery. But here’s one woman who’s joined the fight to help fibroid patients learn their options. Here’s to you Evette Dionne, our Woman Crush of the Week! 

Fighting Fibroids: Making a Warrior

Like Ms. Dionne, editor in chief of Bitch Media, many black women spend years dealing with fibroids for years. (These are non-cancerous tumors that develop in and on the uterus.) Even worse, experts don’t know exactly why women of color are more affected by fibroids. But the phenomenon is so bad, the New York Times has recently devoted several features to highlighting the plight of black women with fibroids.

Luckily, Dionne has always felt comfortable advocating for her own best healthcare, but Dionne also realizes that not every woman is equally capable of doing so. Still, there wasn’t much she thought she could do–until one common fibroid-sufferer experience changed everything.

Recently, Dionne had a two-week menstrual period, something that’s not so unusual for women with fibroid tumors. She decided to tweet about it, because so many black women like herself suffer from fibroids, but don’t earn their doctors attention, leaving them with fibroids so large their only treatment option is hysterectomy. In her tweet, Dionne said: “Nearly every Black woman I know has fibroids, and nearly all of their doctors have told them it’s nothing to worry about. That’s a lie. You should be concerned, monitoring the fibroid’s growth through transvaginal ultrasounds, and getting second opinions.”

Since sending out that tweet, Dionne has launched a mini Twitter series on fibroid care, hoping her stewardship will help other Black women receive the best possible fibroid care.

Fighting Fibroids: Is it Better to Monitor or Remove ?

Dionne was diagnosed in 2015 with fibroids. She tells Prevention magazine that she gets an ultrasound from her gynecologist every six months to monitor her fibroid growth. She also gets annual biopsies to make sure she’s shedding her uterine lining each month, and to ensure there are no cancerous cells in her uterus.

Still, Dionne says, some of her symptoms are very difficult to manage. “My doctor has experimented with different medications to control the bleeding, and so far, none have worked as intended. At some point, I will have to consider having the fibroid removed to eliminate the symptoms,” she says.

We support Dionne in her fibroid struggle, and we hope that, when the time comes for her to address the root cause of her symptom, she will be vocal in illuminating the surgical and non-surgical options available to her and other women suffering from their fibroid symptoms.

Sources: Prevention.com

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