Making the connection between fibroids and mental health
The greatest wealth we will ever amass is good health, both physically and mentally. So, we should exercise regularly, eat healthily and consume plenty of water. Yet, for us ladies, this asset can be significantly diminished by unpreventable growths in the womb called fibroids. These growths do not only affect us physically; they are also powerful enough to have adverse effects on our mental health. But how? Dr Kiri-an Bridgewater, a gynaecologist, and Justine East, an associate clinical psychologist, will help us to make the connection.
Dr Bridgewater explains that while the specific cause of fibroids is unknown, genetics play a large part in the development of these growths, which vary in size according to each female's genes and lifestyle.
"Highly processed foods and foods containing large amounts of hormones can speed up the development of fibroids. But this can be controlled, unlike genes. So, women should have a balanced diet with organically grown foods and foods high in fat," Dr Bridgewater emphasises to Flair.
There are several symptoms that are associated with fibroids. These include heavy bleeding between and during menstruation, painful or prolonged periods, swollen abdomen, difficulty getting pregnant, urinating often, and constipation. However, Dr Bridgewater stressed that, in some cases, there are no symptoms.
MENTAL HEALTH CONNECTION
Given the severity of these symptoms, East warns of the possibility of fibroids quickly leading to emotional trauma, depression and anxiety.
"Depressive symptoms such as a low mood, feelings of hopelessness, crying, decreased or increased appetite, and loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities are likely to develop in women with fibroids," she explained.
She added that women suffering with the condition are predisposed to "anxiety such as restlessness, irritability, and sleep disturbance because of fear for fibroids and their consequences, such as miscarriages or having to do surgery".
The emotional trauma that women experience as a result of these growths can extend to their families and friends. For example, their children may also suffer emotionally and psychologically after witnessing their mothers' distress. Husbands, too, may become overwhelmed by the situation.
Dr Bridgewater and East want to help each woman who endures the pain and agony of fibroids. This is their advice.
There are many treatment options for fibroids. Medication can be used to relieve the symptoms of fibroids and even shrink them temporarily. There is also a procedure that can decrease the blood supply to them and, therefore, cause them to shrink. However, the only way to remove them completely is with surgery. This can be done with a myomectomy (removing the fibroids and leaving the womb intact) or a hysterectomy (removing the fibroids along with the womb).
Therapy helps women to cope with the struggles. Women can check at their clinic for therapists who are willing to offer their help. And if this is unsuccessful, women should ask their doctor to recommend one.
Reduce your stress
Planning your activities; engaging in stress reduction activities, such as meditation and exercise, are some of the best ways to reduce your stress levels. For example, regular exercise has anti-inflammatory effects, as well as positive effects on your mental health.
Get a support system
Talking about your situation always helps. Talk about how you are feeling to friends and family who know about your situation. But if you do not feel like talking, journalling also helps you to process and cope with your feelings.
- Dr Kiri-an Bridgewater can be contacted at the physicians' offices at Andrews Memorial Hospital at 926-7401-3 or 428-5504. n Justine East can be contacted at Caribbean Tots to Teens at 876-978-8535.