Living With Uterine Fibroids

With insights into the effect on Black women

If you have been diagnosed with uterine fibroids or suspect you may have uterine fibroids, you can take control of your health. While every fibroid journey is unique, suffering in silence and enduring pain is unfortunately all too common for Black women.

This article discusses the emotional, physical, social, and practical effects of uterine fibroids, along with insights into the impact on Black women.

patient talking to doctor

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Getty Images

Emotional

If you have fibroids, it’s likely that your pain isn’t just physical, it’s emotional, too.

A small study conducted by the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine on the emotional impact of fibroids found that women report having a significant emotional response to their fibroids, ranging from general worry and concern to fear, anxiety, sadness, and depression.

Half of the women said they possessed a negative self-image, underscoring the stigma that comes with the diagnosis; and many of them expressed that their insecurities made intimacy with a partner difficult.

Uterine Fibroids’ Emotional Toll on Black Women

Black women can experience complex feelings while navigating uterine fibroids, including feeling:

  • Stressed while managing and predicting heavy menstrual flows
  • Disempowered in understanding treatment options
  • Concerned over appearing pregnant, overweight, and less attractive

The good news is that Black women who choose to treat—rather than endure—their fibroids often have an improved emotional, physical, and mental outlook on life.

The emotional toll of uterine fibroids is simply not talked about enough, which perpetuates the idea that women should simply “tough it out.” They should not.

Physical

Fortunately, small modifications in your lifestyle can result in huge benefits when managing uterine fibroids.

Start with changes that are easiest for you to make. Some of these changes include:

  • Reducing stress: High levels of stress upset your hormonal balance, throwing off estrogen and progesterone levels, which triggers excessive output of adrenal stress hormones, like cortisol. Uterine fibroids thrive in chaotic hormonal environments, so it’s not surprising that growth in the size of uterine fibroids is seen during more stressful periods in your life. Relaxation techniques—like yoga, massage, tai chi, and acupuncture—have been reported as effective means of not only managing stress, but also relieving pain as well.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight: Studies have found that the risk of obese women developing fibroids is two to three times greater than women of average weight. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and avoiding foods high in sugar, sodium, or calories have been shown to halt the growth of current fibroids and stop the development of new ones.
  • Lowering blood pressure: Studies suggest that the presence of uterine fibroids is associated with increased blood pressure levels, and the prevalence of hypertension in women with uterine fibroids has been shown to be as high as 40%. Lowering your blood pressure will not only help your fibroids but also your overall health.
  • Limiting red meat intake: High red meat intake has been associated with higher fibroid prevalence, but the causal link between the two is unknown. Still, health professionals suggest limiting red meat intake for its overall health benefits.
  • Avoiding processed foods: Processed foods have a lot of additives that make even potentially healthy food unhealthy, especially if they are high in sugar, sodium, or calories. Eliminating most processed foods from your diet has been shown to help stop the growth of current and new fibroids. Some doctors even encourage eating a special fibroid diet high in natural fruits and vegetables.
  • Staying away from soybeans: High soybean consumption is associated with a high risk of uterine fibroids because soybeans contain phytoestrogen, which can raise estrogen levels.
  • Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol: These unhealthy behaviors can disrupt your hormone levels, leading to fibroid growth. Eliminate or reduce both to help reduce your risk for fibroids. 

Social

Emotional support is just as important as medical treatment for many women dealing with fibroids. Many women find that joining a support group helps them not only come to grips with their diagnosis, but also helps them pinpoint the resources and community they need to live a happy and healthy life. 

You may also find it helpful to work with a “professional listener,” such as a social worker, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or another mental health professional. Some women prefer this in lieu of support groups, while others enjoy coupling the two. 

Resources for Women With Uterine Fibroids

Practical

Coping with fibroids is a long-term journey. There is rarely a quick fix. Still, living a happy and healthy life is possible.

Starting a medication regimen or contemplating surgery can be daunting, and concerns about medication side effects and infertility often linger, but the stress of fibroids does not end there.

Treating Fibroids Without Health Insurance

For people without health insurance, treatment with drugs can be anywhere from $20 a month to $240 per year—or more for name-brand drugs. Treatment with surgery can cost between $10,000 and $20,000.

Additional costs for imaging, such as pelvic ultrasounds and MRIs, and lab tests can also drive up costs.

Fortunately, there are services out there that can help mitigate costs. The Department of Health and Human Services offers a locator for clinics that provide discounts on an income-based sliding scale.

Effects on Black Women

Hysterectomy rates among Black women are more than double those of any other ethnic group. This statistic is rooted in the fact that some Black women are only offered this option.

Black women should not have to give up future motherhood before they are ready to do so. If you have experienced this, it is important to know that you are entitled to seek a second or third opinion. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do fibroids make you tired?

One of the main symptoms of uterine fibroids is abnormal or heavy menstrual bleeding. Fatigue is one of the earliest and most often missed symptoms of uterine fibroids, as severe blood loss may lead to anemia and iron deficiency from the lack of red blood cells.

Large fibroids may also limit your mobility, cause depression, and interrupt your sleep patterns, further making you even more tired.

What foods help fibroids shrink naturally?

Eating a low-estrogen diet can help shrink fibroids naturally and boost your energy. This includes: 

  • Fruits and green leafy vegetables: Studies have found that eating plenty of fruits like apples and tomatoes, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage, could lower the risk of developing fibroids. These foods are also high in vitamin A and antioxidants, which have been shown to slow the growth of uterine fibroids.
  • Foods high in vitamin D: Some scientists think vitamin D can prevent uterine fibroids. Foods high in vitamin D include cod liver oil; dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt; fortified breakfast cereals; egg yolks; and tofu.
  • Fish: Salmon, tuna, and sardines contain omega-3 fatty acids that can help fight fibroid tumors.
  • Legumes: Peas, beans, and lentils are rich in protein that can give you more energy to exercise and stay active.

A Word From VeryWell

Uterine fibroids do not have to rob you of the best years of your life. Finding help may not always be easy, but there are a growing number of resources that can get you started. 

An individualized treatment plan is likely the best way to manage your fibroid symptoms.

An honest discussion with your healthcare provider about which symptoms you find most bothersome and how they affect your quality of life and your desire to have children in the future can help streamline the treatment process.

While a single doctor’s appointment may not provide you with all the answers you are looking for, you may be surprised at how quickly your symptoms improve once you get the help you need.

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Article Sources
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