Guys, I’m no doctor and I write this post from my perspective as a patient trying to get to the bottom of my fibroids treatment.
I first learned about my fibroids when I was 8 weeks pregnant a few years back at age 43. I was at the OB for my prenatal visit to get my ultrasound. There was no heartbeat of the fetus. In the process of telling me this, the doctor asked if I knew I had a ton of fibroids.
My uterus is currently 4 times its regular size and covered with fibroids that continue to grow. Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths of the muscle tissue in the uterus. For me, they have caused uncontrollable bleeding that has caused anemia. Not to mention, a damper in my quality of life!
I’ve noticed there isn’t straightforward information online about real life cases so I’m writing this post to describe my journey with fibroids and the courses of action I am taking. Hopefully, it helps women navigate their fibroid diagnosis much more efficiently than I have!
Causes of Fibroids
The doctors couldn’t say whether the fibroids caused my miscarriage, but I feel like they did. You can read more about my miscarriage on this post that I wrote shortly after my pregnancy ended.
The causes of fibroids are unknown, although they are said to be associated with starting menstruation before the age of 11 and occur less often in women with more pregnancies.
Between 70 and 80 percent of women develop a fibroid tumor by the time they reach age 50. That’s a huge percentage of people. Uterine fibroid size can vary from less than an inch to larger than a grapefruit.
Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids
A few months after my miscarriage, I was sitting with my husband where we were enjoying a lunch date. It was a nice restaurant in town with cloth seats. I had just finished my “cycle.”
All of a sudden I felt a gush like I urinated! I excused myself and as I got up, I noticed a large stain of blood on the nice restaurant cushion. I entered the one-person bathroom and had to take my one piece, pants jumper off completely to rinse off.
With no sweater or anything to cover my waist, I put the wet jumper back on and walked out of the bathroom to find a woman who had been waiting for 10 minutes just outside the door.
Embarrassed, I avoided eye contact and walked by her to my table and quickly said to my husband, “pay the check and meet me outside” as I ran out before people noticed my wet pants.
The signs and symptoms of fibroids are related to the location, size, and the number of fibroids. Some symptoms of fibroids are:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding that can lead to anemia, or significant blood loss.
- Painful menstrual cramps.
- Pain in the back or lower abdomen.
- Problems with getting pregnant or having miscarriages.
- Feeling a lump in the lower abdomen.
Exploring Different Treatment Options for Uterine Fibroids
The 100% no fail treatment for fibroids is to remove your uterus. I list the treatment options at the end of this post for your reference.
I had so many fibroids that I was told by the GYN that the best case scenario if I didn’t want to lose my uterus, was to get a surgical myomectomy (they remove the fibroids one by one). Although they couldn’t remove them all without destroying my uterus, they would try to remove what they could to lessen the heavy bleeding symptoms. What the GYN didn’t tell me was that there were other options I should explore like uterine embolization by a radiologist which is a non-surgical way to treat fibroids.
So, I got the myomectomy surgery shortly after my restaurant incident but my symptoms did not improve. Over time, they got worse and my fibroids grew in size.
After dealing with heavy menstrual periods to the point of having to stay home during the week of my monthly cycle, my family care physician prescribed a birth control that allows the body to have only 1 period every 3 months. My blood test showed I was severely anemic from the large amount of blood loss every month which explained why I was feeling so crappy.
But for whatever reason, when I started the 3-month birth control, I bled and didn’t stop for 3 months! This is despite me stopping the medication and going back to my regular birth control. Ugh. I guess I needed a nudge to go see the GYN again.
This time I consulted with more doctors and received an MRI to see just how large the fibroids are now, and if non-surgical embolization is an option. The radiologist told me I am a great candidate for embolization to treat my fibroids. But luckily I requested a copy of the MRI CD because my husband (who is a surgeon) took it into the hospital where he operates and asked another radiologist to take a look at the MRI. The radiologist basically said, “hell no- with the size of these fibroids she needs her uterus removed!”
My GYN said, ok let’s take out the uterus. But she only offered me a robotic procedure through the stomach. When I asked her why I couldn’t remove it vaginally which I read was less invasive, she said, ” we don’t do vaginal removal. If you want that, we have to refer you out.”
I don’t want to trash talk doctors. I mean, my husband is one. But this fibroid mystery has taught me that NO ONE is looking out for my best interest as much as me. The health care system is so fragmented and each specialty will only discuss what they practice. Also, their advice can be skewed based on making money. Unfortunate, but true from my experience. It is imperative that you are your own advocate for your health. Do not assume just because someone is a doctor, they are right!
I now have an appointment with a new gynecologist to talk about the best way to remove my uterus and to confirm there are truly no other viable options. I am hoping he takes a holistic approach for treatment, unlike the other doctors I have consulted. And if I get the hysterectomy, do I leave the cervix or no? Do I want it done vaginally or through the stomach? Laparoscopic or robotic? I hope he is the right one to give me the best advice for my fibroids treatment!
I’d love to touch base with you with new posts and give you access to my new freebie resource library where I’m adding new goodies to each day.
Fibroid Treatment Options
Treatment with medicine (people with a small number and size of fibroids may be ok with just this)
- Birth control pills can control menstrual cycles.
- Injections of hormones can control the menstrual cycles.
- Medications can stop heavy bleeding during the menstrual cycle (I took a 5-day course to stop the 3 month bleeding).
- Hormone-containing intrauterine devices (IUDs) are can lessen menstrual bleeding.
- Lupron (I’m looking into this medication)
Lupron is commonly prescribed for women undergoing fibroid treatment particularly prior to surgery. The medication leads to a reduction in estrogen and effectively but temporarily shrinks the fibroids. This helps to resolve anemia and allows for a minimally invasive approach by shrinking the size of the fibroids. It is only a temporary treatment with benefits that last a few weeks.
Nonsurgical treatment (effective depends on size, location, and number of fibroids)
- Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) uses tiny particles that are injected into the blood vessels that lead to the uterus. The particles block the flow of blood to the fibroid, causing it to shrink and die. This minimally invasive procedure can be performed by an interventional radiologist on an outpatient basis. It doesn’t require surgery and offers relief of symptoms with fewer risks, less pain, and a faster recovery compared to surgical procedures.
- Magnetic resonance imaging-guided (MRI) ultrasound procedure uses ultrasound waves to destroy fibroids. Waves are directed at the fibroids through the skin with the help of magnetic resonance imaging.
- Endometrial ablation destroys the lining of the uterus. This procedure is best for small fibroids that are less than 3 centimeters in diameter.
- Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus. Because this surgery removes the fibroids along with the uterus, there is no chance of becoming pregnant after undergoing a hysterectomy.
- Myomectomy is a surgical option to remove all types of fibroids. There are three approaches to performing a myomectomy: hysteroscopy, laparotomy, and laparoscopy.
I hope this post has been helpful to you. If you are dealing with fibroids, know that you are not alone! It is a common issue we face as women. I will keep you posted on the progress of my treatment.