It is an insanely busy day at work. Your calendar is packed with tasks, kids’ birthday parties, events. A huge work deadline is looming. So, how do you make room for all these things? The answer is obvious: you work late, skip the gym, cancel a lunch date with a friend, and probably even skip a few meals.
Most women don’t think twice before putting self-care on the back burner. More often than not, it takes a wake-up call to notice the toll this kind of lifestyle takes on our lives.
No matter how indulgent or decadent the term may sound, self-care is crucial for our physical, emotional and mental well-being. Between demands at work and home, finding that “me time” can be tough.
It gets even more complicated if you’re a woman with uterine fibroids-a condition where the concept of self-care extends far beyond the occasional visit to a spa.
What Are Fibroids?
Fibroids are benign tumors that develop from normal uterus muscle cells that start growing abnormally. Fibroids can vary in size ranging from microscopic to several inches. There are several different types of fibroids and it’s not unusual to have more than one type.
Some fibroids don’t produce any symptoms at all, while others can cause debilitating cramps, heavy bleeding, bloating, painful sex or a variety of other unpleasant symptoms. And, while it’s common to have multiple fibroid tumors, it’s often unclear which fibroid is causing the symptoms.
Dealing with fibroids can be disruptive to daily life, and many women report that their symptoms affect their overall mood and sense of well-being.
Here are some important self-care tips for women with fibroids (both for those who are experiencing the symptoms and those who are not).
You need to see your obgyn on a regular basis
This piece of advice is for all women with fibroids-with or without symptoms. Staying in touch with your gynecologist will help monitor your fibroids and the development of any symptoms. For women who are already experiencing the symptoms (heavy bleeding, pelvic pain and pressure, urge to urinate, painful sex, etc.), it’s a good idea to have a regular discussion with your gynecologist about improvement, lack of improvement, or worsening of the symptoms.
Consistent and open dialogue between the obgyn and the patient can help establish a partnership in care, which is especially important when discussing all available fibroid treatment options.
- Keep a Symptom Journal
Fibroids are most commonly known for heavy, prolonged periods. As fibroids increase in size, a woman may also notice her abdomen becoming distended. The growing fibroid can press on the surrounding organs, like the bowel and bladder, resulting in constipation, pelvic pressure and urinary urgency. Other symptoms may include a chronic discharge and fertility issues.
Writing down symptoms is a useful tool that can help a woman keep track over time of how she feels. Recording the symptoms and the dates when you experienced them will make it much easier for your gynecologist to make a correct diagnosis and suggest a course of treatment. Noticing trends is very important. It is important for a woman to notice if her periods are getting heavier and lasting longer or if she is having increased pain and pressure. It is crucial to note if her symptoms are severe enough for her to miss work. Taking a moment to capture those dates and changes can help provide your doctor with vital information.
- Get Creative in the Kitchen
There are many blogs floating around the internet that advise women with fibroids to eat this and not eat that. Different blogs suggest very different diets and it can get a bit confusing and even frustrating. Research has shown that eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables may be protective against fibroids, but we still don’t have sufficient studies that definitively support any particular diet as a clear path to fibroid prevention or cure. Simply put, a healthy diet that doesn’t include processed foods and too much fat, sugar and sodium is good for everyone, whether you have fibroids or not.
Taking time to prepare a nutritious meal can count as self-care for both body and mind. Making healthy meals at home helps provide your body with the nutrients it needs and it can also serve as a major stress reliever. Culinary therapy that uses the calming therapeutic power of cooking is now being used as part of treatment plans for conditions like anxiety and depression. The best part of culinary therapy is of course a delicious and nutritious meal that follows, especially if you outsource the cleaning up to the rest of your family..
- Move Your Body
Just like finding the time to cook healthy and nutritious meals, participating in regular exercise can be a self-care practice that may help women with fibroids in many ways.
Exercise may help with symptoms like pain, cramping, and bloating.
Fibroid pain can often be relieved through yoga poses that open up the stomach. One such pose is called Bharadvaja’s Twist. This pose is performed while seated on the floor with your legs in front of you. You transfer your weight to your right buttock, fold your legs into your left buttock, inhale to help you sit up straighter, and twist your torso to the right. As you twist, you put your right arm behind your left arm. Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds, then release the stretch.
Another yoga pose that can alleviate existing fibroid pain is the Supported Bridge Pose. This pose requires you to lie face up on the floor, with your arms in front of you, palms up. You then lift your buttocks and torso up off the ground. Your legs should follow. Leave just your shoulders on the ground. A rolled up towel between your knees can make holding this pose more comfortable. Hold the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds, then release. Repeat two to three times.
Research suggests that being obese or overweight may potentially increase the risk of fibroids, so when it comes to weight management, both diet and exercise are important.
- Find Ways to Reduce Stress
The connection between emotions and health is real, and part of that connection is the way in which your emotions impact your health. When you experience negative emotions, your body responds physically, with symptoms that can range from increased discomfort from fibroids to high blood pressure to stomach ulcers, eczema, etc. The more stressful the event, the more likely it is that you will experience physical repercussions from the strong feelings you are experiencing.
The fibroid symptoms can be debilitating and the stress that may follow can lead to a lack of sleep. Not getting enough sleep puts the body under additional stress, triggering an increase in stress hormones during the day.
Without good sleep, it can be difficult for patients to deal with life’s challenges. The inability to cope may then contribute to an ongoing cycle of stress.
To help stay balanced, women should participate in self-care routines that include mindfulness practices, such as yoga, spirituality, and therapy. Sometimes a simple brisk walk or curling up with a good book can make you feel a lot better.
- Find the Right Specialist
It is extremely important for every woman to notice if her periods have become the root of her stress. Menstruation can be an inconvenience most women learn to live with, but it should never negatively affect a woman’s life or lead to mortifying social situations. Patients need to understand that it is not normal. Patients get used to dealing with uncomfortable symptoms, but normal periods shouldn’t affect your ability to participate in your daily activities.
It is essential for every woman who was either diagnosed or suspects that she has uterine fibroids to find a specialist who believes that you shouldn’t have to live with the pain, discomfort, and inconvenience of fibroid symptoms and who can recommend the course of treatment that is best for the patient and her unique circumstances. The right doctor will provide you with the knowledge and the treatment option that are best for YOU.