There are over one million women in the United States who currently suffer with uterine fibroids. Many of these women endure fibroids year after year without relief because they are not fully aware of the treatment options. Often, the only treatments offered to them involve surgery, typically hysterectomy. For many reasons these women have rejected surgery as an option, preferring to suffer in silence to avoid the pain, expense, and long recovery times associated with major surgery.
Symptoms of Fibroids Interfere with Sexual Intimacy
One of the many casualties in this “just living (suffering) with it” approach is sexual intimacy. Women suffering with fibroids often have very heavy periods with blood gushing out of them and passing large clots. These clots cause pain when they pass through the cervix in to the vagina. Bleeding this heavily often results in women having to wear a lot of “gear,” such as multiple pads, and even adult diapers. Wearing these bulky protective items, with the apprehension of not knowing when the “gusher” might strike, clearly interferes with a woman’s desire for sexual intimacy: She does not feel very sexual.
In addition, the loss of a lot of blood, which takes iron and hemoglobin with it, can lead to anemia which causes a progressive worsening fatigue. Sex is exercise and therefore for these women it is all they can do to get through their day with a “low tank” (fatigue from anemia). Trying to have sex on top of that is a very tall order.
Besides bleeding, fibroids cause bulk-related symptoms. Fibroids can enlarge the uterus just like a developing fetus. These tumors are hard and firm and can be sensitive to touch (preventing intercourse from the missionary position). As they enlarge, they cause pressure on the pelvic sidewalls which also causes pain. When fibroids are located low in the uterus (near the cervical area), having sex is painful and often avoided purely on that basis. Fibroids can also cause increased urinary frequency, urinary pressure, and incontinence. This frequent feeling of needing to urinate also leads to avoidance of intercourse.
Cynthia Bailey’s Experiences
All these symptoms of uterine fibroids can take a significant toll on relationships, one that is rarely discussed. “Real Housewives of Atlanta” star Cynthia Bailey was one of the few people brave enough to bring this to public attention. In her book, Carry-on Baggage: Our Non-Stop Flight, Cynthia and her husband, Peter Thomas, candidly discuss the effects of fibroids on their marriage. Peter was having difficulty understanding the source of Cynthia’s pain, discomfort, and embarassment. What was apparent to him was a dwindling frequency of sexual intercourse and the feeling that Cynthia was no longer in love with him.
That all changed when Cynthia underwent an outpatient procedure named Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE). Three months after the procedure was complete, she declared “you gave me my sexy back!”
While we are thrilled that Cynthia and Peter found their intimacy again, it raises another important issue, the lack of awareness men have in their partner’s fibroid struggle. While women bear the lion’s share of the effects of fibroids, men are clearly affected as well.
If you or someone you know is suffering with fibroids, look in to discussing your fibroid treatment options with Dr. Lipman. You might just get your sexy back!
John C. Lipman, MD, FSIR, is a board-certified Interventional Radiologist, and a fellow in the Society of Interventional Radiology. He is available for consultation about uterine fibroids at his office in Smyrna, Georgia, on the outskirts of Atlanta. Please call to make an appointment – 770-953-2600. Dr. Lipman encourages patients coming from a distance to arrange a telephone or televideo call in lieu of making a personal visit.