JULY is Fibroids Awareness Month, used to draw attention to the condition that is common in a woman's childbearing years. Between 60 and 80 per cent of women, especially black women, have them — these benign tumours that develop in the uterus and can grow inside the inner cavity, within the muscle wall, or on the surface of the organ. Women can have multiple fibroids which can vary in size from a small seed to as large as a melon.
Here are some fibroids facts as we recognise the month.
1. Not all women are affected by their fibroids — most women won't even know they have them. But they can cause health problems, and about a quarter of women will experience heavy menstrual bleeding resulting in anaemia, bleeding between periods, painful periods, pelvic pain and pressure, an increase in the size of the abdomen, urinary frequency, and even constipation. Fibroids can also lead to infertility or difficulty conceiving as they can cause blockage or compression of the Fallopian tubes, which prevents conception and may impair implantation of the egg in the womb, resulting in a miscarriage.
2. The most common symptoms of fibroids are significant period pain and heavy menstrual and prolonged bleeding during the periods. There may also be terrible back pains, spotting between periods, constipation (usually when fibroids rest on the uterus) and pelvic pain or pressure.
3. There is usually a family history of fibroids, and the risk increases with ageing, diets with excess refined carbohydrates, alcohol consumption, obesity, and hormonal changes. Studies show that fibroid growth is affected by the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone and black women are more susceptible to having numerous larger fibroids compared to non-black women.
4. In pregnancy, fibroids have also been linked to pre-term labour and breech births, since they could obstruct the foetus's ability to turn, and may cause obstruction during labour. One possible but rare problem in pregnancy with fibroids is placenta previa, in which the placenta is implanted too low. Another rare problem is placenta abruption in which the placenta separates from the wall of the womb before the delivery of the foetus. When this happens, the foetus does not get enough oxygen. In women with fibroids, post-partum haemorrhaging also increases.
5. Management of fibroids will depend on the woman's fertility desires, symptoms, and the size of the growths. In mild cases, lifestyle modifications, such as dietary changes, exercise, and natural herbal remedies, may relieve symptoms, while for women who suffer from more problematic symptoms, powerful painkillers and hormonal medications will be needed to control heavy bleeding and pain.
6. Even though there is a high chance that fibroids will come back after they have been removed, women should ensure that they keep themselves generally healthy.
7. Menopause can cause fibroids to shrink because fibroids are oestrogen-dependent. Menopause, in simple terms, signals a permanent end to a woman's reproductive years. Menopause typically occurs in a woman's late 40s to early 50s, or prematurely in instances in which a woman has a hysterectomy. Your risk of developing new fibroids also decreases with the onset of menopause.