Even with fibroids, many women can have children. Still, these non-cancerous tumors of the uterus can make starting a family quite complicated.
It’s #WomanCrushWednesday! Today, we honor Tamika Gray Valburn, founder of The White Dress Project. For years, Tanika suffered from fibroids . She saw her mom lose two sets of twins due to her own fibroids, but didn’t make the connection to her own diagnosis right away!
In fact, Valburn didn’t officially get a fibroid diagnosis until her late teens, even though she experienced painful symptoms. “You just think it will skip a generation,” she recently revealed in an interview. “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.
And, because her fibroids caused such heavy periods, Valburn said, ““I’ve had to learn 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. In 2014, Tanika convinced a Georgia state representative to officially declare July as Fibroid Awareness Month, helping women get the crucial health information they need.
But she didn’t stop there. Tanika realized that she’d 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 fibroids awareness, supporting research, and bringing together a community of women who work to empower one another. The white dress became their symbol, as it signified a milestone in Tanika’s recovery – the moment she could rock a white dress without any fear. Now, the white dress has become a symbol of strength and power to other women dealing with fibroids, becoming one step in the fight to take control of their menstrual health issues.
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!
Uterine fibroids are 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.
Who is At-Risk?
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:
- Being over 40 years of age
- Having a family history of fibroids
- Having never been pregnant
- Having high blood pressure
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.
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, it could cause swelling that is often mistaken as weight gain or pregnancy.
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.
How are Uterine Fibroids Diagnosed?
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, schedule an 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.
At our Houston-area fibroid clinic, we celebrate the journeys of strong women. And we’ve dedicated Woman Crush Wednesday as the perfect time to share their stories in the hopes of helping others. This week, we want to highlight Gabrielle Union, whose diagnosis of adenomyosis ultimately led her fertility plans to surrogacy.
Adenomyosis and Pregnancy
Last year, Union revealed that she has adenomyosis, a unique condition of the uterus that causes a woman’s endometrial tissue to grow into the muscles of her uterus. Symptoms include severe cramping and chronic pelvic pain, and the condition often leads to an enlarged uterus, as well as especially painful menstrual cycles and/or pain during sex. While there is no known cause for adenomyosis, many medical professionals believe that the condition may be related to a variety of other health conditions, including advanced age and previous uterine surgeries.
For Union, her adenomyosis meant years of failed IVF treatments, miscarriages and, ultimately, the decision to carry her baby via surrogate. Now that she’s welcomed daughter Kaavia with hubby Dwayne Wayde, she’s opening up about what she looked for in a surrogate.
In a recent interview with Women’s Health magazine, Union said: “Some people care about the race, religion, or food habits of their surrogate. I was like, ‘I want a reader.’” In that same interview, she admitted the fear involved in her fertility journey, saying,“There’s nothing more that I wanted than to cook my own baby. The idea of [a surrogate] felt like surrendering to failure. People want to see the bump, hear that you got hemorrhoids — they want to know you’re like them. I was like ‘This is going to seem like the most Hollywood shit ever. Will I be embraced as a mom?’ It’s terrifying.”
Still, now that er daughter has arrived, Union is able to look on the bright side of her long path to motherhood. She says, “Any earlier and the FOMO would have greatly influenced how I parented,” she admitted. “I’ve seen it. I’ve done it. I’ve done it well. I’ve gotten all the T-shirts. Now I’m in the right mindset and mental space, and I’m open to being the best mom I can be.” Her strength and grace is an inspiration for all women, which is why she’s this weeks #WCW.
While the only cure for Adenomyosis is a hysterectomy, or removal of the uterus, patients who are not ready to embrace that extreme treatment can still find relief.
Anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen can help with the pain and reduce the blood flow. Taking birth control pills and other hormones is another treatment frequently used. Endometrial Ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that destroys the uterine lining, but its success depends on how deeply the tissue has penetrated into the wall of the uterus.
UAE for Adenomyosis
When treating adenomyosis with UAE, particles are injected into the uterine artery to block the blood flow to the specific problem area. The goal is to deprive the tissue of both blood and oxygen so it the condition will abate. The procedure involves an overnight stay in the hospital.
If like Gabrielle Union, you are struggling with adenomyosis, it’s time to start exploring your treatment options. To speak with one of our Houston area interventional radiologists, call us anytime at 713-575-3686.
Fibroid tumors are non-cancerous growths that develop in and on a woman’s uterus. While not a life threatening condition, because of their location, they can cause many negative symptoms, including problems with fertility, menstruation, and your bowel and bladder function.
Women who have fibroids but still want to have children are often told surgery is their only option. The surgical removal of a fibroid tumor (myomectomy) was thought to be a woman’s best option if she wanted to get pregnant. Now, new research is changing everything.
Myomectomies Don’t Improve Fertility
A new review in the Cochrane journal says: “one study…that examined the effect of myomectomy on fertility and it found no significant benefit.” In other words, even if you have surgery to remove your fibroid tumors, your chances of getting or staying pregnant may not improve.
Of course, this is just one stud; more research is needed to really prove the effect of fibroid surgery on fertility. It does, however, mean that women should carefully consider all their treatment options before rushing into surgery just to preserve their fertility dreams.
UFE and Pregnancy
Patients with fibroids who hope to get pregnant may also consider uterine fibroid embolization, a minimally invasive procedure that effectively kills fibroids by cutting off their blood supply. Many patients wishing to avoid myomectomy want to know if they can become pregnant after uterine fibroid embolization. There have been reports of many successful pregnancies in patients after UFE. Many studies show that fertility rates and miscarriage rates in UFE patients are no different than patients of the same age with fibroids who have had no treatment. That being said, patients may be better off having a myomectomy if they are a good candidate and are willing to undergo surgery.
Although the findings are not clear cut, a few studies have shown that pregnancy complications may be slightly more common after UFE compared with myomectomy. These pregnancy complications can include pre-term labor and pregnancy induced hypertension, also known as pre eclampsia. UFE might still be an option in patients who are not good candidates for myomectomy or who do not want to have surgery. All this will be especially true if it turns out that myomectomy really can’t improve your fertility.
Those non-cancerous tumors made up of cells and muscle known as fibroids can be a quirky lot. Many women with uterine fibroids have no symptoms whatsoever, and some never even know they have them. Others have painful and heavy periods and struggle with discomfort. With all these disparate situations you may be wondering if and how fibroids can affect your fertility.
If the name Kenya Moore, star of Bravo’s Real Housewives of Atlanta, is becoming familiar to you, that’s because she’s been our Woman Crush Wednesday a few times already: she’s been incredible about sharing her difficulties in becoming and staying pregnant due to her fibroids. Well now, once again, she’s earning a #WCW spot of honor as she publicly addresses another potential fibroid obstacle: delivering your baby while you still have uterine fibroids.
Back in October, pregnant Moore was hospitalized. Shortly afterwards, she reveled that she’d need to deliver her daughter, Brooklyn, early because she had preeclampsia, a condition that causes pregnant women to develop extremely high blood pressure. While that diagnosis was challenging enough, Moore revealed is now revealing that her delivery was also difficult.
In a new interview with People magazine, Moore explained that she had to have a three-hour emergency cesarean section and, because she had uterine fibroids, she couldn’t get away with a discreet incision: instead, doctors had to create both horizontal and vertical incisions
“They couldn’t get the baby out,” she shared. “There were all these complications and they knew if they cut into a fibroid, I could potentially bleed out and die. So they ended up cutting me vertically, too, to just get the baby out and make sure I survived the surgery. They were so scared they were going to lose me.”
Even worse? Moore revealed that her epidural ran out at one point, so she needed to go under general anesthesia to avoid excruciating pain. “When it was all over, my doctor said, ‘This was one for the books,’” Moore said. Thankfully, despite being delivered six weeks ahead of schedule, Brooklyn is healthy, and Moore has recovered enough to tell her story.
Pregnancy and Delivery with Fibroids
Unfortunately, pregnancy and delivery complications are not uncommon in women with fibroids.
These benign, muscular growths develop in and on your uterus, causing many potential side effects (including pain, heavy periods, vaginal bleeding when you’re not on your period, painful sex, and problems conceiving or carrying a child to term.)
While some women experience completely typical pregnancies, women with fibroids are more likely to need a C-section, to have a breech baby , to have non-progressive labor, to have their placentas break away from the wall of the uterus before delivery (placental abruption), or to deliver their babies prematurely.
Women with fibroids that block their cervix will almost always have to deliver babies via c-section–their fibroids block the fetus’ only other exit strategy. And, as Moore demonstrates so vividly, fibroids can make c-sections a little more complicated.
C-Sections with Fibroids
Fibroids often get bigger while you’re pregnant, and large fibroids can make it difficult for doctors to enter the uterus to deliver your baby. Also, because fibroids have a significant blood supply that feeds them, cutting a fibroid during surgery can make a women lose even more blood, which can become a life-threatening condition during delivery.
Fortunately, if you’re aware of your fibroids–and the potential complications they may cause during delivery–you should still be able to deliver a healthy baby, just like Kenya Moore. The important thing is to discuss your options, and potential outcomes, with your physicians so you can come up with the safest possible delivery plan for you and your child.
Recently, Real Housewives of Atlanta star Kandi Burruss opened up about her journey to expand her family. The reality star already shares two children with husband but is now considering surrogacy as an option. She shared her reasons with the entire country, on Bravo TV, on the November 25 episode of her show. For her bravery, we’ve nominated Kandi as our Woman Crush Wednesday honoree!
On that episode, Kandi is seen at an OBGYN appointment with Dr. Jackie Walters. They talk about the complications she experienced when pregnant with Ace, her now-2-year-old son. Even though Kandi had surgery to remove fibroids before conceiving Ace through IVF, she thinks some fibroids remained. Because of those fibroids, she says, ” [I had] a couple of scares during my pregnancy with Ace. I was a high risk and I did have bleeding a few times.”
Fibroids during pregnancy can certainly affect a mother’s ability to carry her child to term. Depending on size and location, uterine fibroids can lead to pre-term labor or miscarriage, if a woman is able to conceive at all.
While Kandi was previously able to conceive with fibroids, she has not been as lucky while trying to have a third child. “I know there was still some fibroids after pregnancy,” she says. “I feel like it got worse because Ace is two now and [no conception is] happening.”
Ultimately, Kandi accepted the fact that she will not carry another child herself: “My womb is just, it’s not the best place to have a healthy pregnancy with no issues,” she admitted to her doctor. Still, she’s not ready to give up on her family dream, so Kandi is looking for a surrogate to carry the two remaining embryos she has from going through the IVF process.
For women who still want to have families, dealing with fibroids can be a challenge. There’s no way around that fact. But what strong women like Kandi Burruss are proving is that fibroids don’t have to derail your plans. There are multiple treatment options available and many different ways to complete your family. All you need to do is stay open to possibilities, and work with your fibroid specialists to find the plan that works best for you and your family.
If you’ve been diagnosed with uterine fibroids, it means you have abnormal growths (made up of muscle cells and fibrous tissues) in your uterus. These fibroids are non-cancerous, and can vary in size and location. And while fibroids in any location have the potential to cause uncomfortable side effects, fibroids in certain locations will affect your ability to conceive more than others.
Fibroids that grow mainly away from the uterine cavity are called subserosal. Fibroids within the muscle wall are called intramural. Fibroids that grow into the uterine cavity are called submucosal. While having fibroids doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant, submucosal and intramural fibroids can make it difficult to become pregnant or carry your child to term. Pregnant women usually wait to begin treatment until after they’ve delivered, but if you’re having trouble conceiving, seeking immediate treatment is a good idea.
Obviously, a fibroid that is inside the uterine cavity (submucosal) is most likely to impact conception, but large masses in any location can also cause problems. In fact, a submucosal fibroid can make it 70% harder for a woman to get pregnant! Large fibroids take a toll on fertility in a variety of ways: they can change the shape of your uterus and cervix, or they can block or slow down the movement of a man’s sperm or a fertilized embryo. They can also block your fallopian tubes from releasing eggs, or affect the quality and thickness of your uterine lining.
For all these reasons, women who know they have fibroids should consult with their doctors before trying to get pregnant. Even if immediate treatment is not necessary, knowing the size and location of your fibroids will help you make informed decisions throughout your conception and pregnancy journey. It’s also important to let your fibroid specialist know about future family planning, as the course of treatment he or she recommends may differ based on your short and long term pregnancy goals.
Regardless of whether you want to have a child, your fertility is an important part of female health. It’s therefore so important to understand medical conditions and external factors that could cause female infertility. Here are six of the top culprits to explore for possible causes if you’re dealing with infertility:
1. Problems with fallopian tubes
When functioning properly, your fallopian tubes act as a highway for your eggs. During ovulation, eggs travel down the tubes; if an egg meets sperm at the end of its journey, it can become a fertilized embryo. If, however, your fallopian tubes become blocked or damaged, sperm can’t meet your eggs. And even if the sperm and egg do connect, the fertilized embryo will have a harder time travelling to your uterus for implantation. While many things can cause damage to your fallopian tubes, PID (pelvic inflammatory disease) and STIs or STDs are often responsible.
Endometriosis is a painful condition in which endometrium, the tissue that’s normally found in the lining of your uterus grows outside the uterus. Often, this misplaced tissue develops in your ovaries or fallopian tubes. Endometriosis can be painful. It affects your menstrual cycle and, often, your ability to conceive.
PCOS, or Polycystic ovarian syndrome, is a hormonal disorder that causes your ovaries to become enlarged and covered in cysts at their edges. Another characteristic of this condition is that women produce more male hormones than is typical. Approximately 10% of women are affected by PCOS. Symptoms include irregular menstrual cycles, obesity, excess hair growth, higher risks of diabetes and acne.
4. Uterine fibroids
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that develop in or on your uterus. Fibroids can develop inside your uterus, on its lining, inside its wall or even on the outer surface of your uterus. Fibroids can affect your menstrual cycle, your ability to conceive and your ability to carry a successful pregnancy to term.
5. Thyroid conditions
Thyroid hormones regulate, among other things, fertility and pregnancy in as much as they are a major part of human growth and development. Hypothyroidism, a condition in which your thyroid hormone levels are low, can stop your ovaries from releasing eggs for fertilization.
6. Egg problems
Every woman has a different number and quality of eggs that may be produced by her ovaries. Some women have fairly low egg counts. Other women have plenty of eggs, but the ones she has are not up to the task of creating a baby. Egg count and quality decrease with age, so women with advanced maternal age may be inclined to check their egg quality when grappling with infertility.
Unfortunately, many different causes of infertility manifest with the same symptom—irregular or heavy menstrual cycles. In many cases, you can only pinpoint the cause of your infertility by ruling out all other possibilities. If you are concerned that fibroids may be the cause of your infertility issues, schedule a consultation with Dr. Fox or Dr. Hardee in our Houston area fibroid clinic today.