Uterine Fibroids and COVID-19

During this COVID-19 pandemic, there are some medical conditions that will greatly compromise the quality of life of many women if attention is not paid to them. One of such diseases is Uterine Fibroids also known as “virgin tumours”. Fibroids are the most common benign tumours in women. It is estimated that between 70-80% of black women will harbor fibroids over their lifetime.
It comes with symptoms; however, some women are oblivious of its presence whiles 1 in 4 women ends up with symptoms severe enough to require treatment. The symptoms include heavy menstrual bleeding, long and irregular periods, frequent urination, pelvic pressure and pain, constipation, and in rare occasions, infertility. Apart from the physical symptoms, the psychological impact of fibroids should not be overlooked. According to a global research in 2013, its victims expressed fear that their fibroids will grow or experience further health complications. Another study assessing the emotional impact of fibroids revealed that women reported feeling helpless with no control over their fibroids, because of the difficulty managing and predicting the heavy menstrual flow.
My personal experience with fibroids was a traumatic journey for six good years. I grew pale, sick with a bloated stomach and experienced shortness of breath. Travelling on a bad road or staying outside home was my greatest nightmare. I will always reach my destination bleeding profusely it discouraged me from being active. I was helpless, confused and my general well-being was greatly compromised until I opted for a surgery which I dreaded for a long time.  
Despite the high prevalence of fibroids among women, high-quality data on the Ghanaian situation is unavailable to facilitate the formulation of evidence-based guidelines to address patients’ needs adequately. The gap in medical knowledge regarding COVID-19, has also heightened fear, anxiety, emotional stress and confusion and such stress can hinder overall physical health and may exacerbate fibroid symptoms by influencing cycle length, vaginal bleeding patterns, and painful periods.
According to Mariana Ndrio of the University of Medicine & Health Sciences in St. Kitts these few scientifically-backed tips could be helpful in restoring a sense of control and ease in these difficult and unprecedented times. If you are feeling uncertain or anxious, know that you are not alone; your worries and feelings are valid; stay calm as you follow these tips.  

Stay in touch with your healthcare provider
While it is true that a lot of non-urgent appointments and elective surgeries are cancelled, do not hesitate to stay in touch with your healthcare provider. COVID-19 should not halt or compromise access to necessary medical care for women suffering from fibroids.
Keep to your prescribed medication
You might worry that your current medications might be making you vulnerable to the COVID-19 or you might be feeling uncertain regarding the continuation of your current prescribed medications or supplements. Nonetheless, it is important that you continue taking your prescribed medications and/or supplements unless otherwise advised by your physician.
Maintain healthy eating habits.
Dieticians recommend an increase in the consumption of vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, and kale. This category of food contains a phytochemical called indole-3-carbinol which recent research has suggested may prevent the cellular proliferation of fibroids and consequently prevent exacerbation of fibroid symptoms. Choose organic, locally grown and in-season foods that are hormone and pesticide-free.
Check your serum vitamin D level
There has been significant amount of scientific evidence that vitamin D may inhibit fibroid growth. Get tested and get the needed medication to correct any deficiency. A few recently published studies assessing the role of vitamin D against COVID-19, suggested that there is a possible link between the two and that vitamin D can have a protective effect against COVID-19.
Reduce alcohol consumption.
Stay hydrated by consuming adequate amounts of water during the day and eliminate alcohol and caffeine that has substances that can affect the liver, adding more stress on it and making it work less effectively at metabolizing oestrogen in the body.  Additionally, amidst the COVD-19 pandemic, the WHO urged the public to reduce alcohol consumption because it compromises the body’s immune system and making people more vulnerable to COVID-19. By cutting out alcoholic beverages, you are protecting yourself from adverse outcomes from both the COVID-19 and fibroids.

Boost your mental wellbeing by trying the following
·         Meditate, practice mindfulness and pray often.
·         Monitor your thoughts and feelings in a journal.
·         Limit the amount of media you ingest daily.
·         When in pain and experiencing other fibroid symptoms, rest and give your body time to heal. Maintain a sufficient sleep schedule.
·         Exercise regularly to reduce your body mass index to prevent fibroid growth and alleviate its symptoms. Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem.
And remember, during these confusing and unprecedented times and while you are feeling that this pandemic is affecting you, in particular, a bit harder than the rest, there is always a community of women who are feeling exactly like you—you are not alone. Get in touch.
From Fibroid Foundation Africa a non-profit raising awareness and advocating for a greater focus on Uterine Fibroids & Global Fibroid Alliance. Email: womengh@gmail.com/ 233242801535

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