By Doris Combs
Powder Springs, Georgia
All my life, I knew I wanted children. But in my mid-twenties, I started to experience heavy menstrual bleeding. My gynecologist diagnosed me with uterine fibroids, and that’s when my dream of having a family came crashing down.
He told me I’d never be able to have children and that my only option was a hysterectomy. This was unacceptable to me. And so I waited.
My fibroids continued to take a toll on my life. I bled excessively during my period and because of this, no matter where I went, I had to be prepared. I learned to be prepared. It became my norm to carry and change pads constantly, and it only got worse. It was a lot to take care of, and it made me nervous.
Living a life with such severe symptoms wasn’t for me. It was time I changed gynecologists. Once again, my new gynecologist diagnosed me with uterine fibroids. But unlike my initial experience, we discussed my fibroids in depth, and he made sure I understood my condition. I grew to trust him. I continued to get regular checkups, each time measuring my fibroids to see if they grew. As time went on, my fibroids got bigger, and we knew something had to be done.
The year was 1997, and this time, there would be no talk of surgery. This time would be very different. My gynecologist introduced me to a minimally invasive cure for my fibroids—uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). It all sounded too good to be true, so I didn’t initially say yes. I took my time thinking about this new treatment option. Finally, after months of consideration, I made an appointment with Dr. John Lipman, the interventional radiologist my gynecologist had recommended and a renowned expert in UFE.
At my consultation appointment, Dr. Lipman explained the UFE procedure and answered all of my questions. And I had to ask:
Is It Possible for Me to Have UFE and One Day Have a Child?
He explained all the risks involved, but that ultimately it was possible for me to become pregnant and give birth. I did my own research, trusted his judgment, and chose UFE.
Video: Doris Combs speaking about her decision to have the UFE procedure; pregnancy after the UFE.
The procedure went well. All I remember was lying in bed, falling asleep, and waking up to Dr. Lipman telling me it was over and everything was fine! There was slight discomfort, but I was given medication to ease any pain. Two days later, I was up doing what I normally do.
My life changed drastically after UFE. My periods became normal, and I no longer had to carry around all that extra padding that was once weighing me down. The feeling of being carefree after UFE was wonderful.
What came next could only be described as a dream come true. A couple years after UFE, I became pregnant with my son. My pregnancy went well, and labor was uneventful. I also avoided surgery again by delivering vaginally a very healthy baby boy. That was 18 years ago.
Today at 53, I look back at my choice to have UFE. Not only did it give me my son, but it also gave me back my life. As a woman working a full-time job, the fact that it’s an outpatient procedure with a quicker recovery time worked best for me. Since I had UFE, my symptoms never returned, and I didn’t need any additional treatments. I also avoided 2 surgeries (myomectomy and c-section) which may have led to a lot of other issues afterwards (exs. scar tissue, adhesions, other surgical complications).
Related Video: A Patient’s Husband Speaking about Fibroids and Pregnancy, Pregnancy after the UFE
My advice to women who are having fibroid symptoms and considering UFE is to get to know your gynecologist and interventional radiologist—and get to know them well. Make sure they are open and receptive to any questions you have. This is why both doctors gained my trust. When it came to the actual UFE procedure, Dr. Lipman answered questions I didn’t even know I had! Trust your doctors and trust yourself. UFE was a great experience for me, but making sure you have all the information first will make the process that much better.
UFE vs. Myomectomy: What to Expect When You Get Pregnant
By Dr. John C. Lipman, Atlanta Fibroid Center
Despite performing Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) for over 20 years, my patients often refer to the procedure as “surgery”. UFE does not involve any surgery whatsoever.
Many patients have had previous fibroid surgery; most notably a myomectomy. This surgery can be performed laparoscopically through small surgical incisions or by a longer traditional surgical incision (referred to as open myomectomy). There are often many more fibroids in the uterus that cannot be removed surgically (either laparoscopically or open) and therefore, when the patient wakes up from myomectomy, there are living fibroids left in her uterus which will start to grow.
That is why the myomectomy surgery often commits the woman to having another procedure; typically within 5 years of the original myomectomy surgery. One other drawback of myomectomy surgery is that if the patient does get pregnant after surgery, she would be obligated to have a caesarean section (i.e. another surgical procedure). To summarize, for patients suffering with fibroids who choose myomectomy, they are looking at 2 or 3, perhaps even more surgeries. One additional thing women need to consider when contemplating myomectomy is that a small percentage of patients will convert to hysterectomy during surgery. Therefore, they go in to surgery thinking they will have a myomectomy only to wake up from surgery having undergone a hysterectomy, usually due to bleeding during surgery.
Contrast this with the UFE procedure. UFE is completely non-surgical. There are no surgical wounds and no risk of hysterectomy. Instead, there is a tiny nick in the skin overlying the top of the right leg (or left wrist) which is covered by a regular bandaid at the conclusion of the procedure. UFE typically treats ALL of the fibroids in the uterus and therefore is usually only needed once. Most women treated with UFE will be in menopause before they could ever grow any new fibroids. If a UFE patient gets pregnant following UFE, the birth is typically full-term and vaginal.
Therefore instead of 2 or 3 (or more) surgeries for the myomectomy patient, the UFE patient has NO surgeries! Which route would you prefer?
To hear more about UFE, call 770-953-2600 to schedule a time to speak with Dr. Lipman.