Follow posts tagged #fibroids in seconds.Sign up
5 ways we can treat troublesome uterine fibroids
BY BRYAN YINGLING, MD
Lancaster General Health
If you’ve been diagnosed with uterine fibroids—benign tumors of the uterus—your treatment options range from doing nothing to removal of the entire uterus. Your choice depends on how severe your symptoms are and whether or not you want to have children.
The Mayo Clinic reports that as many as 3 of 4 women experience uterine fibroids, and most are unaware of them because they often cause no symptoms. But when the fibroids become troublesome, the symptoms—heavy bleeding, pelvic pain, and frequent urination—can be severe enough to need treatment.
Let’s take a look at all the available treatments:
It's just like going to Maaco
So everything is fine, this far nothing is irregular. YAY!!
I am going to have surgery. There are 3 things left and we are just going to hit them all at once. Much simpler than in and out and in and out and in and out… …I only have so many jokes about checking out my junk.
So there is a fibroid and a polyp that are likely the source of my current issues. There is also something else that the Dr. felt, but didn’t show up in the ultrasound which, FYI, my fibroid looked kind of like a cat - I really wanted to take a picture of the screen but there was the whole awkwardness of being in the midst of invasive ultrasound and then posting a picture for you guys that was taken DURING the invasive ultrasound. So they want to do a biopsy of my uterus to make sure everything is ok. And since they will be all up in my junk that is a very good time to do it.
None of this is particularly unusual, people just don’t talk about it. And since I was so scared because I didn’t realize how normal it is, because people don’t really talk about it, I am letting everyone know what is going on.
I am having surgery. It is routine. I will go under. There is a fibroid, a polyp and something they need to figure out. It is all normal, nothing looks sinister. And if I want to have kids, I’d have to address these issues sooner or later - so why not just do it the year I have already paid out most of my deductible?
Endometriosis, Fibroids and more..
LADIES PLEASE READ. My mom bought me these two products & they are helping me a lot. I’m going to create another post with a more in depth description of what these two can do for you.
Apple cider vinegar is a powerhouse of vitamins, mineral, antioxidants, and dietary fiber. It has little fat and sodium. It is high in potassium helping to re-establish a healthy digestive tract. It is a wonderful super food promoting growth of healthy micro flora in the body which is essential to heart health and proper immune function.
As far as Black Strap Molasses is concerned, the minerals are especially important because: they help balance hormones, calm uterine muscle tissue (especially important during that “wonderful time of the month”)
replenish the blood that is lost during menses (especially if there is very heavy blood flow due to fibroids and endometriosis).
Doctors appt today and pregnancy test
Bascially i have too many cysts and fibroids which is what is causing me pain and cramping. Ultrasound came up that i have a complex, hemorrhaging 2 cm cyst on my left ovary, which is the biggest of them all. Also a 9mm cyst on my right ovary. I have an appt Jan. 31st for another ultrasound to see if there’s been any changes, and i’m waiting for a gynecologist referral at St. Mikes hospital. Basically my doctor is not too worried about it, so neither am I since ive been living with cysts and fibroids for a few years.
Also I am now anemic which i was expecting since i was anemic before i started taking birth control. Good thing means that the birth control should finally be out of my system if the anemia is back.
Also took a pregnancy test, even though i know it’s early and i haven’t had the tww, i felt like i ovulated early this cycle. But lo and behold negative. Oh well, with everything going on right now, it wouldn’t be the best time anyways.
the inaugural post
Why is the first post always the most daunting? Ah well. I will just jump right in with a short history of myself and my current health goals. I am spilling the beans, not all the beans, but more than I normally would feel comfortable with!
I am 33, living in beautiful (though hot as hell) Austin, TX. I’ve always been interested in health and wellness, in a holistic sense. Alternative treatments always intrigued me, as did the idea that health and wellness are more than just the food you eat and the exercise you do. I’ve recently enrolled at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, in the Health and Wellness Coach training program. As soon as I found IIN, it just felt right… the right path, the right decision… and I made it pretty quickly, which is not like me at all! But two months in (classes haven’t officially started but I’ve already been studying, plus meeting a ton of new classmates) it still feels right, and is super inspiring!
In the past month I have begun to exercise, not every day, but more often than not. I am now eating gluten-free (started 6/16/11) to reduce inflammation in my body, to help my IBS and other chronic inflammation-related issues. I have lost 4 pounds, impressed my husband with my arm muscles (I am so lucky to gain muscle mass quickly), and really made a commitment to myself - to treat my body well, to improve myself, to love myself.
Having recently been diagnosed with fibroids is, well, pretty crappy. I feel really down, betrayed by my body, and just feel icky that something abnormal is growing inside me. Oddly enough, the pain is worse now… now that it has a name, and isn’t just some random ache or pain. I know it could be worse, fibroids are not malignant or anything like that, but I am only 33, have been eating more healthfully than ever and even exercising and losing a few pounds - plus I am just embarking on a career in health and wellness… ai yi yi! The irony! But I plan to turn this into a research and learning experience… and hope it will help me grow, and heal, and possibly help others too.
I have personal goals as well as health news and information to share here…. let me know what you are interested in learning about, just click “ask me anything” at the top bar!
Am I estrogen dominant?
Following on from my article about the oral contraceptive pill, I would like to tell you a little bit about estrogen dominance today.
Now how do you know if you are estrogen dominant? As I mentioned before, if you suffer from endometriosis, polycystic ovaries or have fibroids you will be estrogen dominant.
Other symptoms of estrogen dominance are:
- Decreased sex drive
- Dry eyes/skin
- Early onset of menstruation
- Excessive blood clotting
- Fat gain around abdomen and hips
- Fibrocystic (lumpy) breasts
- Heavy or irregular bleeding
- Mood swings
- Sluggish metabolism
- Water retention, bloating
There are many more but the best way to tell if you are estrogen dominant is by doing a saliva hormone test.
This is the most accurate way to measure hormones and will give a clear indication what needs to be done to get your health back on track. Natural progesterone cream is a great way to balance your hormones and I have found that in most estrogen dominant cases, progesterone is low. Have a look on Dr John Lee’s website if you want to find out more.
Fireballs, Fibrosis, Fibroids, it's all the same.
N: Dr. B, my patient had surgery on her lungs. She has pulmonary fibrosis and had something like 12 nodules removed.
Dr. B: wow, that’s amazing.
…later, while talking to the patient
Dr. B: So I hear you had lung surgery?
Patient: Who told you that? I had that fibrosis of my womb. I had 12 fibroses removed.
N: sad face.
Uterine Fibroids - Women's Health Update
Over the more than 15 years that I have been in clinical practice, not many health problems have eluded successful treatment with alternative therapies as consistently as uterine fibroids. Women who are seeking an alternative to pharmaceutical or surgical interventions for the treatment of uterine fibroids will not find an easy, reliable alternative to shrink the tumors. Therapies that I have come to use can be confidently recommended for the management and amelioration of most symptoms related to the fibroids such as abnormal bleeding, pelvic pain/pressure, back aches, bloating and digestive problems. With less optimism, I recommend a regimen with the hopes of inhibiting continued growth, realizing that only on occasion, they will reduce significantly in size, due to the natural therapies.
Many alternative practitioners and women who use alternative medicine have reported individual case histories that create some hope for reducing the size of fibroids. They report reduction in size on pelvic ultrasound, disappearance of symptoms and even total disappearance of any evidence of fibroids. I myself can report cases where the fibroid growths and the size of the uterus have been significantly reduced. The problem is that the results are very inconsistent and random. Often the cases that have shown the most dramatic improvements are the women who are in their late forties and early fifties and are in fact almost menopausal or in fact menopausal. The fibroids of these women will tend to shrink because of the natural decrease in their endogenous estrogen levels regardless of any natural therapies. One of the main goals of managing women with fibroids is to achieve improvement of symptoms caused by fibroids, and buying time so to speak, until menopause when this potential natural reduction in size is possible. For symptom management, a treatment plan separate from the one discussed here, is recommended to address the situation. For an overall protocol to attempt the difficult task of actually slowing growth or inhibiting growth, I offer some nutritional and botanical approaches backed only by ideas, logic, and traditional botanical and naturopathic principles.Types of fibroids
Fibroids come in all sizes and shapes and usually occur as multiple tumors, although each fibroid is discrete. Most discernible fibroids are between the size of a walnut and the size of an orange, but unusual tumors have been reported up to 100 pounds. The classification of fibroids is according to their location. They are either submucosal (just under the endometrium), intramural (within the uterine muscle wall), or subserosal (from the outer wall of the uterus). They can also be intraligamentous ( in the cervix between the two layers of the broad ligament) or pedunculated and dangling from a stalk into the uterine cavity (pedunculated submucous) or pedunculated on the outside of the uterine wall (pedunculated subserous). The pedunculated submucous fibroids can on occasion protrude through the cervix and appear in the vagina. Other pedunculated fibroids on a long stalk outside the uterus can be mistaken for an ovarian mass or attach to the bowel.Nutrition
Even though simply changing one’s diet is unlikely to shrink one’s fibroids, good dietary habits are still important. Clinical observation has taught me that all natural therapies work best in the context of a healthy lifestyle including dietary changes. Improving one’s diet can help to decrease heavy bleeding by increasing foods and spices that have an anti-inflammatory effect such as the bioflavonoids rich in citrus fruits and berries, garlic and curcumin. Improving ones’ diet can also improve the digestion of many individuals thereby possible relieving some of the gas and bloating associated with the pressure of the enlarged uterus or fibroid on the digestive organs. Acidophilus yogurt added to the diet may also offer some benefit in these situations.
Poor nutritional habits can alter and slow down the body’s metabolization and detoxification of estrogens and the elimination. Alcohol in particular, slows down the metabolism of estrogens in the liver. The tradition of naturopathic medicine holds that the health and vitality of an individual depends on the health of the liver. The liver’s basic functions are vascular, secretory, and metabolic. As a vascular organ, the liver is a major reservoir of blood and filters over one quart of blood per minute. The liver removes bacteria, endotoxins, antigen-antibody complexes, and other particles from the circulation. The liver’s secretory functions are the synthesis and secretion of bile. The liver manufactures about one quart of bile on a daily basis. Bile is required for the absorption of fat-soluble substances including some of the vitamins. The majority of the bile secreted from the liver into the intestines is reabsorbed by the many toxic substances that are eliminated from the body by the bile. The metabolic functions of the liver are involved in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism; the storage of vitamins and minerals; the formation of numerous biochemical factors; and the detoxification or excretion into the bile of hormones such as estrogen as well as histamines, drugs, and pesticides.
The liver not only has to process the foods that we eat on a daily basis, but also serves as the great detoxifier of harmful substances (both internal and external) and metabolizes and deactivates hormones. The liver metabolizes estrogen so it can be eliminated from the body by converting it to estrone and finally to estriol, a weaker form of estrogen that has very little ability to stimulate the uterus. If the liver cannot effectively metabolize estradiol, this may be one mechanism by which the uterus becomes overestrogenized and responds with fibroid growths.
Saturated fats, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and junk foods are presumably problematic in two main ways:
- they interfere with the body’s ability to metabolize estradiol to estrone to estriol, and
- some of these foods are deficient in vitamin B or interfere with B-vitamin metabolism. If B vitamins are lacking in the diet, the liver is missing some of the raw materials it needs to carry out its metabolic processes and regulate estrogen levels.
Whole grains such as brown rice, oats, buckwheat, millet, and rye are excellent sources of B vitamins. Whole grains also help the body to excrete estrogens through the bowel. The role of whole grain fiber in lowering estrogen levels was first reported in 1989. It was observed that vegetarian women who eat a high fiber, low fat diet have lower blood estrogen levels than omnivorous women with low fiber diets. Once again, we can see how a high fiber diet might be able to help prevent and perhaps reduce uterine fibroids.
Because there may be an association between having uterine fibroids and a fourfold increase in the risk of endometrial cancer, three dietary considerations stand out above all else: increase the fiber, lower the dietary fat, and increase the soy products and other legumes. Researchers in Hawaii examined the role of dietary soy, fiber and related foods and nutrients on the risk of endometrial cancer. Over 300 women with endometrial cancer were compared with women in the general multiethnic population. The researchers found a positive association between a higher level of fat intake and endometrial cancer as well as a higher level of fiber intake and a reduction in risk for endometrial cancer. They also found that a high consumption of soy products and other legumes was associated with a decreased risk of endometrial cancer.
Some people have raised the question that since soy foods are high in phytoestrogens, specifically soy isoflavones, and if phytoestrogens have the ability to have a weak estrogenic effect, then maybe patients with uterine fibroids or endometrial cancer should avoid soy foods. So far it appears as though soy isoflavones do not have an estrogenic effect on the uterus in humans. Soy isoflavones appear to be selective in terms of which tissues they have a weak estrogenic effect on and which tissues or organs they have a weak anti-estrogenic effect on. It seems that in the uterus, soy isoflavones have an antiestrogen effect.
Reduction in dietary fat intake results in a reduction in serum estradiol levels, which could influence the rate of uterine fibroid growth. The data on dietary fat and estradiol levels come from a meta-analysis published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Researchers reviewed 13 studies published between 1987 and 1997 that investigated the effect of dietary fat intervention on serum estradiol levels. For both pre and post menopausal women, the analysis revealed significant decreases in serum estradiol among women who restricted fat intake. Estradiol levels were reduced by 7.4% among premenopausal women and 23% among postmenopausal women. In 11 of the studies, dietary fat intake was reduced by 18 percent to 25 percent.Nutritional Supplements
Supplements such as inositol and choline exert a lipotropic effect. This means they promote the removal of fat from the liver. Lipotropic supplements are usually a combination vitamin and herbal formulation and sometimes an animal liver extract designed to support the liver’s function in removing fat, detoxifying the body’s wastes, detoxifying external harmful substances, and metabolizing and excreting estrogens.
Dose: Lipotropic factors 1-4 tablets per day with meals
Supplementation with pancreatic enzymes is usually done to treat pancreatic insufficiency. Symptoms of abdominal bloating, gas, indigestion, undigested food in the stool, malabsorption, and nutrient deficiencies are the usual manifestations of pancreatic insufficiency. The logic for the treatment of uterine fibroids is similar to the logic for the treatment of cancer. Enzyme preparations have been used at the Contreras Clinic in Tijuana, Mexico, under the direction of Dr. Ernesto Contreras and by Drs. William Kelley and Nicholas Gonzalez in New York City, as part of a cancer treatment protocol. There is little evidence in the scientific literature to support their use, but the logic is that the pancreatic enzymes will digest the cell membrane surrounding the malignant cells. By doing so, the natural killer cells will then be able to enter the cancer cells and alter the abnormal cell division. In the case of uterine fibroids, the theory is that the pancreatic enzymes will help to digest the fibrous/smooth muscle tissue and dissolve the fibroids. When used for this purpose, the pancreatic enzyme supplement must be taken between meals rather than with meals.
Dose: Pancreatic enzymes 2-4 capsules 3 times per day between mealsBotanicals
Many plants have been used in traditional herbal medicines in an attempt to treat women with uterine fibroids. The plants and herbal formulations discussed here are used to try to shrink uterine fibroids. Other treatments are used to address abnormal bleeding, uterine cramping, urinary frequency and digestive problems.
One of the most commonly used herbal formulations in traditional naturopathic medicine is what has come to known as the Turska formula. It is a tincture formulation of gelsemium , poke root, aconite and bryonia. These are toxic herbs if used incorrectly. In a one ounce bottle, it contains 1 &#frac12; drams of aconite, 1 &#frac12; drams of gelsemium, 1 &#frac12; drams of bryonia, 3 drams of poke root and &#frac12; ounce of water. 5 drops are recommended 3 times per day. The alkaloids, coumarins, saponins, lectins and aglycones contained in these herbs are thought in traditional botanical terms to dislodge and slough off catabolic waste tissue and promote the drainage of lymphatic fluids from areas affected by the buildup of wastes. This formula is available through Gaia Herbs in Bravard, North Carolina or NF Formulations in Wilsonville, Oregon.
Three other formulations are a proposed herbal protocol for the reduction in the size of uterine fibroids and inhibition of continued growth: (source: Gaia Herbs)
- Compounded Echinacea/Red root
Echinacea – Echinacea species
Red root – Ceanothus americanus
Baptisia – Baptisia tinctoria
Thuja – Thuja occidentalis
Stillingia – Stillingia sylvatica
Blue flag – Iris versicolor
Prickly ash – Xanthoxylum clava-herculus
Dose: 30-40 drops in a small amount of warm water between meals 3 times daily
- Scudder’s Alterative
Corydalis tubers – Dicentra canadensis
Black alder bark – Alnus serrulata
Mayapple root – Podophyllum peltatum
Figwort – Scrophularia nodosa
Yellow dock root – Rumex crispus
Dose: 30-40 drops in a small amount of warm water 3 times daily between meals
- Fraxinus/Ceonothus Compound
Mountain ash bark – Fraxinus americanus
Red root – Ceonothus americanus
Life root – Senecio aureus
Mayapple root – Podophyllum peltatum
Helonias root – Chamaelirium luteum
Goldenseal root – Hydrastis canadensis
Lobelia – Lobelia inflata
Ginger root – Zingiber officinalis
Dose: 30 drops to a small amount of warm water 3 times daily between meals
Several old studies have suggested that progesterone may inhibit growth of uterine fibroids. Lipshutz demonstrated that progesterone administered to guinea pigs prevented formation of tumors that had been induced by estrogen. In 1946, Goodman reported six cases of clinically diagnosed uterine fibroids that regressed after using progesterone therapy.
Dr. John Lee poses that because uterine fibroids are a result of estrogen stimulation and what he calls “estrogen dominance,” the corrective solution is to use progesterone. He asserts that estrogen dominance is a much greater problem than recognized by conventional medicine. “Since many women in their mid-thirties begin to have nonovulating cycles, they are producing much less progesterone than expected, but still producing normal ( or more) estrogen. When sufficient natural progesterone is replaced, fibroid tumors no longer grow in size (they generally decrease in size) and can be kept from growing until menopause, after which they will atrophy. This is the effect of reversing estrogen dominance.”
The form of natural progesterone that is best used, again according to Dr. John Lee, is a topical cream with about 400 mg of USP progesterone per one ounce of cream.
Dose: &#frac14; tsp twice daily for at least two weeks out of the month before menses. Another recommended regimen is 3 weeks on and one week off (during menses).
There is another theory and counter-opinion about the relationship of progesterone to uterine fibroids. Dr. Mitchell Rein and his colleagues at Brigham and Women’s Hospital published a report in 1995 stating that not only is there no evidence that estrogen directly stimulates myoma growth, but that it is actually progesterone and progestins that promote the growth of fibroids. The authors site the biochemical, histologic, and clinical evidence that supports an important role for progesterone and progestins in the growth of uterine myomas.
In my clinical experience these last 15 &#frac12; years, I have utilized dozens of herbal nutritional supplements, , topical oils of poke root, castor oil packs, hydrotherapy treatments and strict dietary regimens in attempt to halt the growth and shrink the size of uterine fibroids. We have achieved only occasional unpredictable success with premenopausal women in shrinking fibroids based on ultrasound monitoring. With more consistent success the natural therapies and lifestyle changes, and perhaps just the normal course of their condition have ended up in stabilization of their fibroids with no continued growth and modest to moderate reduction in size in postmenopausal women. My goal has by and large been to achieve stabilization of the fibroids while focusing on resolving the symptomatic problems associated with the fibroids. The majority of the time, I have clinically observed that women can achieve stability and symptomatic relief until menopause when things would have tended, yet not necessarily improved.
Some individuals have fibroids that are just too large and/or too problematic. More and more surgical options are now available besides the traditional hysterectomy including hysteroscopic resection, myomectomy, laparoscopic surgery, and uterine embolization and supracervical hysterectomy as an alternative to the traditional hysterectomy. If surgery is recommended or preferred, it is important to individualize the recommendation to meet not only the medical needs of the woman but her values and emotional needs as well.
An alternative hysterectomy much more common in Europe but gaining popularity in this country is a supracervical hysterectomy. With an abdominal incision, the body of the uterus is removed but the cervix is spared. By leaving the cervix, the vagina is unaffected, and the normal length and sensations of the vagina are maintained. Myomectomy is abdominal/pelvic surgery where just the fibroids are removed but the uterus is spared. Many women prefer this surgery, and I encourage women to find a surgeon who will agree to this surgery it if is appropriate for their size and location and extent of fibroids. However, compared with hysterectomy, some myomectomies may be associated with more blood loss and more complications, and 15-30 percent of women who have a myomectomy eventually require further surgery because the fibroids recur. Even if you do not want to retain your fertility, myomectomy should be seriously considered. Dr. Vicki Hufnagel, a surgeon formerly practicing in California, is considered a progressive surgeon by some and a risky renegade with bizarre and unsafe surgical techniques by others; in any case, she is far from conventional. In her book No More Hysterectomies,
Dr. Hufnagel promotes reconstructive surgical techniques that avoid the need for a hysterectomy. Some of these techniques and recommendations are very controversial and may even be considered surgical catastrophies by other surgeons. Perhaps her greatest contributions have been to point out more clearly for women some of the potential complications from a hysterectomy and how it may affect future quality of life. She also stresses the number of unnecessary hysterectomies that have been performed in the United States each year.
A number of newer procedures have more recently become available at least by some doctors and in some hospitals. A hysteroscopic resection has been used to remove fibroids within the uterine cavity. A hysteroscope, an instrument that is inserted through the vagina into the uterus, provides a view of the interior of the uterus. The surgeon uses an instrument to remove the fibroids and cauterize the endometrium. Submucous fibroids or pedunculated submucous fibroids are the fibroids that lend themselves to this kind of surgical treatment. Subserosal fibroids cannot be reached with this procedure.
Uterine embolization is designed to reduce fibroids by obstructing the blood supply that nourishes them. It entails making a small incision in the groin and threading a small catheter into the femoral artery. The doctor works the catheter up to the vessels that supply the fibroid with the help of a dye and Xray. Microscopic plastic particles are injected into the catheter to close off those vessels. The fibroid shrinks because it is deprived of its blood flow. This is a very new procedure and not that women yet have been treated or involved in a research study. Not all fibroids are candidates for this procedure and undoubtedly there are downsides and side effects yet to be well understood at this point in time.
Laparoscopic surgery is the least invasive approach for removing subserous and subserous pedunculated fibroids. It is similar to the hysteroscopic resection. With a laparoscopy, the scope and surgical instruments are inserted through two small incisions in the abdomen. When the fibroid is small, the surgeon removes the fibroid using the myomectomy technique (i.e., cut out the fibroid and suture up the uterus where the fibroid is plucked out.) For fibroids that are larger or inaccessible, the surgeon ma use myolysis. Using a laser or electrical needles, the fibroids are cauterized, and the shrink. I’ve even heard of a large fibroid uterus being removed using laparoscope. Since there is no major abdominal incision through all the muscles of the abdomen, the recovery time is much shorter and the cosmetic advantages are obvious. However, a laparoscopic hysterectomy is much more time-consuming and may take as long as seven hours to perform.
Even with all of these surgical alternatives, there are situations where a conventional hysterectomy is necessary and appropriate. The most important concern about a hysterectomy is preserving the ovaries. A uterine fibroid uterus that necessitates the additional removal of both ovaries is uncommon. None the less, it is often recommended in women who are already beyond their fertility and postmenopausal. The doctor will often recommend removing the ovaries to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. What if we started removing all our organs to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer ? Special circumstances might warrant the removal of the ovaries, including a mother or sister with ovarian cancer; but as a routine preventive I don’t recommend it. The lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is 1 in 70 women. If the ovaries are removed, and conventional estrogen replacement therapy is then needed, the risk of breast cancer will then increase by as much as 30% after 5 years of use. Better to keep the ovaries. Most of the time there is no pressing medical need to remove them.
Not often do women have to rush to any decisions about surgical interventions. Excessive bleeding problems, a rapidly enlarging fibroid uterus, interference with kidney function and prolonged or severe pain are the motivating circumstances. If surgical intervention becomes appropriate, remember that there are options. Explore some of the newer surgical techniques to see what might be the best option in the particular clinical circumstances that exist. A knowledgeable and respectful surgeon with experience in the different skills and techniques along with a knowledgeable, respectful and open minded alternative practitioner can help to make the right decision on behalf of what is the right intervention for the patient.
And the female body. Over at my blog…
Frank discussion of uterine fibroids and such neatly hidden from those who don’t care to see it…
Beginning of My Journey, 2007-2010
Tomorrow, I will begin my IVF journey. Although I suppose that it began quite some time before then…
I have been trying to get pregnant for nearly 4 years, a task which is difficult for 2 reasons. #1- I am a lesbian. As a result, I cannot try at home when I feel like it, I have to work with a doctor and pay for sperm. #2- I have a variety of genetic infertility issues that make getting pregnant difficult. I have fibroids, endometriosis, and a retroverted uterus (facing the wrong direction). When I was younger, I only knew about the endometriosis. I have had really heavy periods since I first got my period when I was 11 years old. I have awful memories of going home from school once a month because I could not stand the excruciating pain. I did not have an endometriosis diagnosis, but my mother had suffered for years with the hereditary condition and I had all of the symptoms. I didn’t realize that endometriosis was going to be the least of my concerns.
Roughly four years ago I was having a really bizarre pain in my abdomen. I didn’t know what it was so I went to a doctor. The doctor told me that I would have to wait 3 weeks for an ultrasound. I knew that I could not wait that long because I was not feeling well. I went to a second doctor who told me that I might have appendicitis. I proceeded to the emergency room and after an ultrasound I discovered that I had a cyst the size of a softball on my ovary. They told me that I could either have surgery or wait and the cyst might go away at the end of my cycle. If I chose to wait, I needed to make sure that I didn’t exert myself too much because the weight of the cyst could cause my fallopian tube to fold in half, cutting off the blood supply. That would result in instant emergency surgery. They told me I would know if this happened because the pain would be so awful that I would not be able to stand. Lovely… They handed me the ultrasound report and left me alone to contemplate my decision. I read the report and made an extremely disturbing find. I had multiple fibroid tumors that the physician had failed to mention. I also learned that I had a retroverted uterus. Here I was, 24 years old, learning that I have endometriosis, fibroids, a uterus facing the wrong direction, and cyst the size of a softball. I felt my fertility slipping off into the abyss. I was devastated. I began to cry uncontrollably and asked someone to fetch the doctor. When he came back into the room he seemed surprised that I was upset. These things were no big deal. I would have no problems conceiving. I should not worry. Etc., etc. I was not a medical doctor but I knew better. I knew that I was in for a very difficult journey.
I found an amazing doctor named Shannon Moorehead. She practices in Phoenix, AZ. She is a fertility specialist and she assured me that she would do everything she could for me. Luckily, the cyst did go away on its own. To the best of my knowledge, I have not had any cysts since. However, there was a much larger demon (or demons actually) lurking inside my womb. Fibroids. 6 of them. And they were sucking out the blood supply that was supposed to be used for my future unborn child. The doctor was really surprised that someone my age had that many fibriods. It is rare. Fibroids are more common in older women and in African American women. Unfortunately I had a genetic time bomb that no one in my family had ever told me about. To this day I’m not sure why. Perhaps they thought it was an issue I would deal with when I am older. My mother, my grandmothers, and my great-aunts on all four sides of my family (father’s father’s, father’s mother’s, mother’s mother’s, and mother’s father’s) have all had hysterectomies in their early 40’s because of fibroids, endometriosis, or both. I did not even have a chance to escape these infertility issues. They are even worse, I believe, because I inherited the conditions from all sides. It’s like ropes being tied to all four extremities and attached to posts in the middle of an empty field. Then four archers come up and shoot you from four different angles. You can’t escape. That is your fate. That’s how it feels to have fibroids.
The doctor didn’t seem to think the fibroids were much of a problem. She told me that I likely would still be able to get pregnant, that I’m young, and that we should just monitor them. They might not grow, she said. They might not cause you any issue at all. I didn’t believe her but she was giving me advice based on what happens most of the time. We monitored the fibroids with ultrasounds every 3 months. They kept growing and they more than doubled in size in a year. With every visit, I would get sick as I drove up to her office. I was anxious and depressed. I knew what we were looking for. I sat in the doctor’s office, month after month, looking at all of the pregnant woman and the woman with their babies. I wondered if that would ever be me. One day I counted 20 pregnant women in the waiting room. Ever seat was filled. Every woman was pregnant or had a baby in her lap. A new patient walked in. She was thin. Perhaps she was just there for a check-up. Perhaps she had issues like me. She went up to the front desk. The woman behind the desk asked her if she was pregnant. She said she was. My heart sank. They called me back into the room to do the ultrasound. I laid down on the table and wished I was there to look at my baby. Instead we measured tumors. The only thing that kept me from crying was the fact that at least my tumors were benign. I did not have cancer. I have always been grateful for that.
The doctor told me that it was time to have surgery to remove the fibroids. I was not ready for surgery. My wife and I decided to try to get pregnant a few times before the surgery. It would be dangerous to get pregnant with so many fibroids, for both me and the baby. Fibroids often grow during pregnancy and mine were quite large. After many appointments the doctor said to me that if my body could carry a pregnancy, then it was meant to be. If it couldn’t, we would set a surgery date.
We proceeded to try to select a donor. I had a test and found out that I was CMV negative. That mean we also had to select a donor who had also not been exposed to the virus. Our perfect 6’ 2”, red-haired, blue-eyed physician donor from California Cryobank was out. We agonized over using a known versus an unknown donor. We eventually settled on using a donor from Fairfax Cryobank. We spent weeks picking out the right person. We ordered the sperm, got the doctor’s approval, and performed ICI at home. I was convinced that it was going to work. I took pregnancy tests before pregnancy hormones would even have been detected in my urine. I nervously, anxiously, excitedly waited for a second line to appear on the test. I did not realize that that would be the first of many tests. I am still waiting for a second line… So, I did not become pregnant that month. I cried for a long time.
We went to order more vials from the donor we had chosen to try the following month. There were no more vials at the cryobank and he was no longer donating. We were back at square one. We asked a friend of ours if he would be the donor. He agreed and we were thrilled. Unfortunately it took him 3 months to get himself tested. Every period was hard. For me, it meant the end of a baby that was never meant to be. In December, he finally brought the paperwork into my doctor’s office. On the day I was ovulating he went in to donate. I went in for the insemination and the doctor pulled me into her office instead of the exam room. She sat me down and explained that he hadn’t donated enough. “What do you mean, ‘not enough?’” I asked. “Drops,” she replied. She showed me a container with two drops in it. I called the donor back and asked him if he would come back in. When I finally got in touch with him he said that his car had broken down and he had to take care of a family emergency. He would not be coming back. I was upset and shaking, but it would still be okay. I was ovulating for 2 days. I gave him space and allowed him to deal with his family situations. We called him back the next day and he refused our phone calls. I figured he was no longer interested. I felt panicked. Another month was going to slip away. Not to mention that I was now starting to get in trouble with my job for randomly taking mornings off.
That month we asked another friend of ours to become the donor. I had actually asked him back in 2001 and he had happily agreed. When we tracked him down and asked him again, he said that he would if we would give him money. We didn’t have much money, I was working as an assessor for a non-profit and my wife was a student working at a local gas station. We told him that we would give him money and he said that he would do it. Then he stopped returning our calls. We were desperate and visited him at work. He again told us that he would do it. We never heard from him again.
Our donor from back in December kept insisting he was still interested. He was busy in January but told us that he would donate in February. My doctor was now quite concerned about my rapidly growing fibroids. We agreed that if I didn’t get pregnant in February, I would have surgery in March. After again having some troubles with work, I took the morning off the day I was ovulating. I called the donor and asked him where he was. He told me that he was just leaving my doctor’s office. I said that I was just arriving. I asked him where we could meet. He said that he was in the parking lot and that he had to go. He explained that he had donated and the doctor had told him that his sample was insufficient yet again. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I felt like my insides had fallen out. I begged him to come back into the office and try again. He said that he had to leave. He would have to work in the afternoon and was also working the following day. It was not going to happen. I walked into the doctor’s office and asked them what had just transpired. Everyone who was working there swore they had never seen him that day. They remembered him from December and attested that he had not returned since. He had lied to me! If he wasn’t interested, he could have simply told me that. I asked him multiple times if he truly wanted to be part of our pregnancy journey and he insisted that he did. Why couldn’t he tell me the truth!? My wife was at work and I got the news alone. This meant I was going to be having surgery next month and I would not be able to try for a baby for 3-6 months. Side note: The donor who lied to us is expecting his first child this summer…