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Five years ago, I started to have insane periods that lasted over 20 days. Sometimes they skipped a month or two, then came back with a vengeance. The pain was so unbearable that the strongest over the counter pain killers were not helping. It was effecting every aspect of my life, from missing work days to missing birthdays. I was even afraid to go get a haircut, thinking I could bleed all over the seat and be mortified.
I was recently moved to another country, so I was hesitant to go to a doctor, due to the language barrier, and not being sure if my health insurance would cover the cost. But, after months of suffering, and developing other weird symptoms like losing my hair in bunches, I decided to spend the money to go see a gynecologist. Luckily, Spain has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, so my doctor was able to diagnose me right away: Uterine Fibroids. He assured me that they were not cancerous, but of course, very distressing nonetheless. He said mine were very small so he did not recommend surgery, but the other options to manage them were very limited. I could not use birth control pills, one of the options, due to being allergic to them.
I started to research Uterine Fibroids obsessively as I was determined to get to the bottom of it, and heal myself. Sadly, there are not a lot of research on them, despite the fact that up to 80% of women will develop them in their life time, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The cause of these fibroids is still unknown. And only treatment options are surgery, complicated procedures or pills.
While trying to learn how to manage my period symptoms, I also developed anemia due to the massive blood loss. I ended up in ER, not being able to stand up, trembling and dizzy from anemia. My hair loss was also because of anemia. I was given blood, and iron pills. I learned that untreated anemia can lead to fatigue and lethargy -- and, in severe cases, heart problems.The vicious cycle of bleeding while in excruciating pain, and battling with anemia continued for another nine months.
Although my doctor said I did not need surgery, I was so desperate at this point that I was willing to do whatever it took to stop this mayhem. I learned that hysterectomy was the only option to permanently get rid of them. I also learned that this was routinely performed in the U.S. even for much younger women in their early 20s. Ernst Bartsich, MD, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center in New York claims that 76% of all hysterectomies performed were being done unnecessarily.
Other surgery and procedure options, such as Myomectomy, Embolization were as scary, although seemed less dangerous than full hysterectomy. I read that many women were happy with their results. I was still very nervous about them due to my anemia, and possible blood loss during any of these procedures. So, I kept researching to see if there was anything else I could do, before deciding to go through with surgery.
While I kept researching, I decided to make a few lifestyle changes. I learned about diets that help with anemia, and also organic pads and tampons. I began a strict diet of mostly vegetables that help with more blood production. I also switched to all organic pads and tampons. In a few months, I started to see some difference. My periods were shorter, and the pain was considerably lower. Plus, the usual itching which I often experienced with regular pads, was gone. After my anemia was under control, I started going to the gym regularly as well.
Now, after years of aggressively fighting my fibroids, I am happy to share that they are not hurting me any longer. My last ultrasound showed that they did not grow. My periods are back to their normal length, and most importantly no pain during menstruation. I know there isn't enough research to show if organic pads help with uterine fibroid symptoms, but in my case they did, along with my diet and other lifestyle changes. By all means, follow your doctor's advice if you are diagnosed with uterine fibroids, and have the surgery if you must. But, if you want to make some healthier choices to see if they help along the way, I can tell you that they do. Plus, you may discover how strong and smart you are, by taking control of your own health. Best luck in your journey to manage your fibroids. I know it is difficult, but you got this!
Photo Credit: Hanna Postova