An astonishing 1 out of every 3 women develop fibroids at some point in their lives. For such a common occurrence, they are thankfully not deadly and many women live with them and never ever find out. Shrouded in myths, they have become a source of anxiety which these brief answers seek to ease.
1. What are they?
Fibroids are swellings in the uterus, (the baby-carrying organ in a woman’s belly) made of muscle tissue. They happen when some of the muscle tissue which form the wall of the uterus grow in an abnormal wild pattern. They are NOT cancerous though. (Thank goodness!)
They can occur on the inside or outside of the uterus, or inside the muscular wall. Some may even grow out with a huge head attached to the uterus by a thinner stalk. In size, they may be so minute that you can’t see them and they may grow as large as a term pregnancy. Their location and size determine what complaints may be experienced.
2. Am I at risk?
They are super common in African women, occurring two to three times more than in any other race. About eighty percent of women over twenty-five years of age are thought to have them. This is probably due to genetic/inherited factors, such that a woman whose mother or sister has them is at an even higher risk of having them herself.
A major factor as well is the hormone – oestrogen which is practically what makes us female. Fibroids tend to grow more in women with high levels of oestrogen, for example, in women who are obese or pregnant. In some pregnant women, the fibroids grow quickly as oestrogen is secreted in huge quantities and then shrink at delivery.
Fibroids are also associated with starting menstruation at an early age. Consumption of excessive amounts of red meat with little fruit and vegetable, and alcohol are thought to increase the risk as well. (Hey!)
3. How can I know if I have fibroids?
Fibroids are usually asymptomatic, that is when they are too small to cause any problems. And fortunately, many women fall into this category. (may be Nature’s delicate balance) For many women, fibroids are merely found by chance during routine tests.
When they do rear their ugly heads, it may be as heavy menstrual periods, such that a woman may find herself using up more sanitary pads in one day than is usual. She may also notice that her menstrual periods extend longer or there are clots (huge, usually dark red masses of thickened blood) in her pads. She may also experience swelling of her tummy, and a feeling of fullness, tummy pain, worsened menstrual cramps, back pain, frequent peeing, constipation or pain during sex.
The presence of any of these symptoms (complaints) does NOT guarantee a woman has fibroids as they may also occur in other instances.
At this point, it is best to consult a doctor for further examination and tests.
Please feel absolutely free to JOIN the conversation and share your experiences with fibroids in the comments section below.