Women living with uterine fibroids experience a range of physical symptoms. From mild discomfort to severe pain, fibroids take a toll on a woman’s body. For some women, the physical fibroid symptoms are not the only negative effects.
The connection between uterine fibroids and relationships is extremely important as well. Fibroids play a significant role in emotional and physical health within romantic relationships. For instance, women may feel less confident about their appearance. This decrease in self-esteem can create emotional distance between couples.
With the very heavy periods that these tumors often bring, women often resort to multiple pads at a time, and even wear adult diapers. This also results in women feeling less sexual. The amount of blood lost each month often leads to a deficit of iron and hemoglobin (which is responsible for carrying oxygen in our blood), and therefore, these women are often very tired and chronically fatigued. Sexual relations is a form of exercise and typically exercise (including sex) ceases with the iron deficiency anemia that these women often deal with.
The fear that fibroid symptoms can show up without warning can cause anxiety, an unwillingness to participate in various activities, and further contribute to couples drifting apart.
Two married couples discuss the ups and downs of dealing with a uterine fibroid journey together. From having uncomfortable, but necessary conversations to supporting each other through difficult moments, traveling the path to healing can result in stronger partnerships.
Fibroids and Relationships: LaToya and Lakeem Dwight Unite Against Fibroids
LaToya and Lakeem Dwight’s relationship began in celebration. After working together for a while, things took off for the couple when they found themselves in an unofficial dance-off 12 years ago at an event in downtown Atlanta. While Lakeem may have won their first battle on the dance floor, he and LaToya banded together to win the battle against uterine fibroids.
LaToya’s issues with uterine fibroids started before she realized she had the condition. She experienced a lot of bloating, pain, and pressure, but didn’t know the root cause. Six years before LaToya and Lakeem tied the knot, LaToya went to her long-time Ob/Gyn for an IUD removal. During the examination, the ultrasound technician saw fibroids on LaToya’s uterus. Upon this discovery, LaToya’s physician gave her only one option, a hysterectomy.
Overwhelmed with the news and the recommended course of action, LaToya called her husband Lakeem immediately after her appointment. Though she didn’t know how he would handle the news, she reached out to her husband for support.
Before LaToya’s battle with fibroids, Lakeem didn’t know much about them. Though women in his family dealt with uterine fibroids, it was always treated as a “woman’s thing.”
To help Lakeem understand what she was going through, LaToya provided him with helpful reading material. While on a long fourth of July road trip with his friends, Lakeem received several text messages from LaToya with information about fibroid symptoms and how they affected her body. “That was my way of trying to help educate him because I was still uncomfortable and didn’t know what he was going to think,” says LaToya.
LaToya provided her spouse with a great amount of information, but Lakeem had already started doing his own research. “I didn’t know how it was going to impact or affect our relationship, so I definitely did my own research,” Lakeem recounts.
Fibroids affected their marriage in an intimate way. Lakeem recalls how his physically-fit wife became self-conscious about how her stomach looked. He tried to reassure her that she was fine so she wouldn’t think he felt any differently about her. LaToya “mustered through it and grabbed the bull by its horn,” but her confidence took a hit.
Not only did fibroids lower LaToya’s confidence, but they also had an impact on their sex life. The pain and pressure she often felt made her shy away from physical intimacy with Lakeem. “I wouldn’t be in the mood at all and that added some stress to our relationship and marriage,” she says.
With a lot of information on hand and the will to overcome their challenges top of mind, the Dwights knew they had to face the issue head-on.
“If I don’t try to take control of this or try to manage it, it’s probably going to end up taking control of me to the point where I’ll have to get rid of my entire womb.” – LaToya Dwight
Knowing that a hysterectomy was out of the question, LaToya started to change her lifestyle in hopes of avoiding any type of medical treatment. She started to eat a vegan diet, ate for her blood type, and engaged in low-impact exercises like yoga and qigong.
While these natural treatments offered some relief, more research and a recommendation from a friend at the gym led LaToya to fibroid doctor John Lipman, MD. and the Atlanta Fibroid Center for the UFE procedure.
During her fibroid procedure, LaToya remembers that the staff and physicians at Atlanta Fibroid Center “didn’t miss a beat,” and Lakeem was also by her side every step of the way.
The week post-UFE was difficult for the couple. LaToya wasn’t physically able to do much and Lakeem wasn’t sure what to do other than make her as comfortable as possible. But despite any difficulties, having the UFE procure provided the Dwights with a sense of relief and immense gratitude.
Since having the UFE procedure, LaToya and Lakeem experience more comfort during moments of physical intimacy. The couple has gotten back to doing more activities together and LaToya’s confidence has reached new heights.
With newfound self-assurance, LaToya founded The Fibroid Pandemic, a resource for women to find information on medical professionals, aboriginal healers, natural products, and more. Her hope is to provide a safe space for women to get vital information to help them navigate their journey with fibroids.
Lakeem is proud of his wife’s accomplishments and her willingness to share her story “without hesitation or reservations.” He has two words for husbands looking for ways to support spouses living with fibroids, “be patient.”
Being an active listener who’s receptive to your partner’s feelings is critical. By working to understand what your partner is going through, you’re better equipped to do your own research and find out ways you can assist.
LaToya echoes Lakeem’s sentiments. “Just listen, be open-minded, and don’t disregard your spouse’s feelings,” LaToya advises husbands.
Eboni and Stevie Baggs’ Fibroid Journey
Athletes and newlyweds Eboni Crayton Baggs and Stevie Baggs took on the mission of healing uterine fibroids as a team every step of the way.
Before meeting Stevie in Houston, TX in early 2018, Eboni experienced uterine fibroid symptoms for about a year. She dealt with fibroids and menstrual bleeding that was heavier than normal, constant fatigue, and anemia. Eboni visited her gynecologist repeatedly and was told she had two to three small fibroids. Though her doctor knew the fibroids were there, Eboni was told there was another underlying cause of her symptoms.
After going through several rounds of various ineffective treatments for a year, Eboni took her health into her own hands. At this point, she started dating Stevie, and together they worked towards healing.
Though unsure about the specifics of uterine fibroids, Stevie was aware of the condition. It was when he met Eboni and noticed how fatigue affected her athletic performance that he “dug deeper to attack it.”
The couple never shied away from having conversations about fibroids. The first time they seriously discussed uterine fibroids was during a training session at the gym.
Stevie recalls Eboni being extremely tired at the beginning of their workout. Walking up the stairs exhausted her and she had difficulty breathing. As a D1 athlete, it was unusual for her to tire out so quickly, so they immediately began discussing ways to tackle the issue.
As with a lot of couples dealing with fibroids together, the Baggs’ sexual relationship was affected. The irregularity of Eboni’s menstrual cycle made it difficult for the couple to experience spontaneous intimacy. Despite the challenges fibroids put on their physical connection, mentally and emotionally, Stevie and Eboni were always on the same page.
When Stevie began researching uterine fibroids, he learned that fibroids affect black women at an alarming rate. It meant a lot to him to dig deeper for answers to help his wife and women in the Black community.
Once Stevie knew how fibroids affected his wife, he helped her transition to a toxic-free life. Everything in their household is free from harsh chemicals to decrease their exposure to harmful toxins. Also a proponent of the healing power of essential oils, Stevie learned which essential oils helped with fibroid symptoms and showed Eboni how to incorporate them into her lifestyle.
Continued research led Eboni to Dr. John Lipman and the UFE procedure at the Atlanta Fibroid Center. She settled on the UFE procedure because like LaToya Dwight, her first doctor told her that her only option was a hysterectomy. She preferred a minimally invasive medical treatment that would not decrease her fertility.
Neither Stevie nor Eboni had major reservations with the UFE procedure. Stevie discovered that a family member had a hysterectomy, but later learned that UFE was a better option, so that experience helped form Eboni’s treatment choice.
Nerves were a bit high on the day of Eboni’s procedure, but it turned out to be a smooth experience. The nurses and staff at Atlanta Fibroid Center were nice, attentive, and helped Eboni to feel at ease. Though she doesn’t remember all of the details of that day, from his perspective, Stevie describes the day as “different.”
Never seeing Eboni as scared and fearful as she was on that day, Stevie felt as though he couldn’t do anything to help her other than be there to support her in any way she needed.
Stevie’s unwavering support of Eboni and her fibroid journey continues to strengthen their union. From consistently doing research and helping her make positive lifestyle changes to being an “overstanding” training partner in the gym, Stevie knows that the most supportive spouses are the most informed spouses.
“Anyone who has a spouse living with fibroids really needs to do their research and be in support of doing something about it right now.” – Stevie Baggs
Words of Wisdom from Marriage Counselors
Married partners Woodrina and Martez Layton of Dream Builders Marriage Coaching and Counseling are familiar with how medical conditions like fibroids affect marriages. Couples often seek their guidance for communication or conflict resolution issues, but through discussion, the Laytons discover that an underlying medical issue exists.
Dealing with fibroids can place a heavy burden on a marriage. Some of the problems that arise include:
- Financial issues: extra medical bills or a decrease in income due to unpaid time off from work
- Sexual challenges: physical intimacy becomes too uncomfortable for the wife and can lead to a decrease in affection, confidence, and overall emotional disconnect
- Miscommunication: wife assumes her husband sees her differently or isn’t listening to her needs, either partner doesn’t express their feelings openly
- Depression: wife may feel as though she’s not able to fulfill her husband’s needs
- Loneliness: wife is dealing with a condition that the husband won’t endure which can be isolating
- Resentment: husband enjoys travel and other activities without his wife
- Fears: all of the challenges mentioned above can lead to suspicions of infidelity and mounting trust issues
According to Counselor Woodrina Layton, the biggest challenge most couples have to overcome is learning how to adapt to their new normal. When a spouse has a serious medical condition, the roles in marriage may reverse.
Women tend to handle the time-consuming organizational and administrative tasks of the home. When a woman is living with a painful medical condition, her husband may need to take on those tasks. When roles change, both partners must learn to adjust.
“Set new expectations and balance emotions.” – Coach Martez Layton
How to have constructive conversations about fibroids with your partner
If you’re a woman living with uterine fibroids and are hesitant to bring the subject up with your husband, remember that you aren’t alone. “You entered this union to become a team so you can share anything with your husband,” says Counselor Layton.
The best way to broach the subject is to come from an educational standpoint. Read articles about fibroids with your husband and approach the topic from an educational standpoint. This gives both of you an opportunity to learn and understand the condition together. Search for examples of other couples who’ve been through a similar situation and made it to the other side successfully. Knowing other couples made it through helps you both stay focused on physical recovery and strengthening your relationship.
Creating a comfortable space for wives to discuss uterine fibroids requires husbands to become vulnerable. In order to build a strong union together, men must show the same level of vulnerability and transparency they expect from their wives.
“Be the person that leads, so that your wife feels comfortable leaning in. Show her you can be honest and vulnerable. Learn how to listen. Be accepting. Learn how to honor and value her feelings. Let her know that you appreciate her being honest and open with you. Tell her that you’re not looking at this as something she’s facing, but something you’re facing together.”
– Coach Martez Layton
Practical tips for couples navigating marriage and fibroids
For couples who need a few ideas on staying positive and hopeful through issues with uterine fibroids, Mr. and Mrs. Layton have the following advice:
- Attend appointments together
Going with your wife to her doctor’s appointments is a way to show her how much you support her. Not only does it let her know that you’re in this together, but it’s a great opportunity for you to learn.
- Say words of affirmation
“It doesn’t cost anything to tell her that you love her,” says Coach Layton. Make sure you consistently and confidently remind your wife that you love and appreciate her. Let her know that you think she’s beautiful and you’re always there for her. Constantly remind her how you feel about her and shower her with genuine compliments.
- Get physical
Giving your wife gentle massages can help foster a greater physical connection and promote intimacy.
During the times when your wife isn’t in pain, take a comfortable walk together. Going for a walk gives you both a chance to get fresh air, soak up some vitamin D, and just be together. Hold hands while you walk to remind each that you are on this journey together.
A practice the Laytons found to strengthen their bond, walking helps to increase emotional intimacy, too. During their annual Married4Life walk in Atlanta, the Laytons welcome couples from all over the country to partake in the powerful exercise of walking hand-in-hand.
- Challenge your perspective
In the midst of a difficult time, your first thought might be “when is this going to end?” Instead of looking for a way out, think about how this experience can help you learn and grow together.
“What may look like an obstacle is an opportunity.” – Coach Martez Layton
- In all things, give thanks
Remember to practice gratitude daily. Despite the challenges we all face, there is always something to be grateful for when you take stock of your life and lean on your faith.
- Remain hopeful
Look for support groups where you can meet people who’ve navigated marriage during a fibroid crisis. Seek encouragement and guidance from those who’ve made it through. Get advice from licensed and trained professionals if you need help mediating tough conversations. Coach Layton reminds couples that there is always hope.
“This does not in any way have to end your marriage. It’s just another opportunity to express your love and affection for one another while you’re on this journey.” – Coach Martez Layton
Help is Available at Atlanta Fibroid Center
If you are experiencing any symptoms of uterine fibroids, or you’re the spouse of a woman living with fibroids, don’t hesitate to contact UFE doctor Dr. John Lipman and his informative staff at the Atlanta Fibroid Center.
Contact Dr. John Lipman of Atlanta Fibroid Center by calling 770-214-4600 or making an appointment online.
This story was written by Erica Famojure of Nao Media and medically reviewed by John Lipman, MD. Famojure is not a trained physician and does not give medical advice in this article. Please consult a qualified medical professional with any questions.