Us women are resilient creatures. How else would you explain the fact that so many of us put up with the misery of uterine fibroids? With 40% of women aged between 35 and 55 affected by these benign uterine growths1, too many of us delay seeing our doctors. For many it’s a case of learning to cope with upsetting symptoms – for up to several years according to one survey2. Take heavy periods, for example. Heavy menstrual bleeding is one the most common symptoms of fibroids and can seriously get in the way of life. For some women, bleeding is so problematic they’re forced to change their tampon every half hour and/or double up on sanitary towels. Many are forced to take time off work, and of course cancel social engagements. Having to make repeated trips to the loo in the night doesn’t do your sleeping habits much good either.
Yes, there are plenty of ways to prevent messy, embarrassing leaks, but ‘coping’ with heavy bleeding isn’t the answer. Left untreated, fibroids can grow in size, while excessive blood loss every month puts women at risk of iron deficiency anaemia. Yes, taking an iron supplement will help, but this won’t deal with the real problem, vaginal bleeding.
Unfortunately, heavy bleeding isn’t the only symptom of fibroids. Fibroids can mean painful periods, lower back pain and pelvic tenderness, too, as well as pain during sex. Some women deal with this stoically by putting up with cramps and aches and pains and taking painkillers when it gets too much, but again this is treating the symptom, not the cause. No one should have to put up with pain or self-medicate on a monthly basis, so this is definitely something to discuss with a doctor.
Thanks to the pressure fibroids place on your pelvic cavity, they can also affect toilet habits, causing bowel pressure and urinary frequency. For some women this means constant discomfort, not to mention having to worry about being near a toilet all the time. Many get so used to it, they don’t even notice what a burden it has become.
While it’s always good to remain upbeat about your health – fibroids aren’t life-threatening, right? – It’s important to take action. Apart from anything, any changes in your periods or toilet habits should always be investigated to rule out other serious conditions. There’s also the impact that fibroids can have on your fertility. The presence of fibroids could make it harder to get pregnant, and the likelihood of complications during pregnancy is greater once you do3. So if you’re thinking of starting a family anytime soon, that’s another good reason to speak to your doctor.
Apart from anything, fibroids have never been more treatable. There are a number of options, from surgery to remove them to oral pills that will make them shrink and control bleeding. It’s just a case of finding the most effective course of treatment for you. So while you may feel that you can continue to ‘cope’ with the symptoms of fibroids, there’s really no need. Make an appointment to see your doctor today and reclaim your life from the misery of fibroids.
1 Gupta S, Jose J., Manyonda I. Best Practice and Research Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 2008; 22(4): 615-626.
2 The Burden of Uterine Fibroids for African-American Women: Results of a National Survey. Elizabeth A. Stewart, Wanda K. Nicholson, Linda Bradley, and Bijan J. Borah. Journal of Women’s Health. October 2013, 22(10): 807-816. doi:10.1089/jwh.2013.4334.
3 Fibroids and reproductive outcomes: a systematic literature review from conception to delivery. Klatsky PC1, Tran ND, Caughey AB, Fujimoto VY. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2008 Apr;198(4):357-66. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2007.12.039.