Woman has uterine fibroids removed that equaled the size of a 6-month pregnancy

Erica Chidi, co-founder and CEO of Loom, a women's health education platform, is making her private health journey -- a six-year battle with uterine fibroids -- public, she said, in hopes that other women will feel less alone.
"It can be a really lonely journey, especially because fibroids are what I see as invisible obstacles, not something that someone can see and immediately empathize with," Chidi, 35, told Good Morning America. "You can feel like, 'Maybe it's not that bad. Maybe I don't need to talk about it that much, but for me I knew how much I was suffering and how much I was struggling and how important it felt to share it."
Chidi said that when she first began experiencing symptoms of heavy menstrual bleeding, persistent bloating and cramping, and fatigue about six years ago, she had no idea they were symptoms of uterine fibroids — benign tumors that grow in or on the wall of the uterus or Uterus, according to the National Institutes of Health.
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Although she went to her gynecologist for annual check-ups, Chidi said she only got a transvaginal ultrasound, an imaging test, when she alerted her doctor to a large, hard lump in her abdomen, vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and bladder, according to the National Cancer Institute.
According to Chidi, the procedure found 10 uterine fibroids, the largest of which was the size of a grapefruit.
PHOTO: Erica Chidi is pictured while recovering from a 2019 procedure to remove uterine fibroids. (Erika Chidi)
"I was really shocked by how many were found," she said. "My uterus was distended until about 10 weeks pregnant...which is why I had so much gas and also explained the bleeding."
Back in 2019, Chidi said she elected to have endometrial ablation, a "minimally invasive surgical procedure used to treat heavy menstrual bleeding," according to the Food and Drug Administration. The procedure, which targets the inner lining of the uterus, or the endometrium, can shrink but does not remove uterine fibroids.
PHOTO: Erica Chidi is pictured while recovering from a 2019 procedure to remove uterine fibroids. (Erika Chidi)
The procedure was a success, according to Chidi, but two years later she said her symptoms of bleeding, bloating and discomfort had returned.
This time, Chidi said, doctors found 23 uterine fibroids in her uterus, which is the weight of a 6-month pregnancy.
"For almost two years, I walked around every day feeling very much like a person who was six months pregnant, but without the amazing feeling of being pregnant," Chidi said. "Just this intense physical work in your body without a happy ending."
This time, due to the growth of her fibroids, Chidi decided to have a myomectomy, a surgical procedure to remove uterine fibroids.
After the three-hour surgery in April, Chidi said she felt better than she had in years.
PHOTO: Erica Chidi, 35, is pictured before, left and after surgery in May 2022 to remove uterine fibroids. (Erika Chidi)
"The place I was in before the surgery had become my normal, so I figured that's how I should feel every day," she said. "It's been really incredible just slowly getting back to my true baseline."
Chidi said while a full recovery is expected to take six months after surgery, she already has more energy and less bloating and heaviness in her body.
She said that once she realized how common uterine fibroids are, particularly in black women, she wanted to share her story.
MORE: Breaking the stigma of painful periods: 'They shouldn't be debilitating'
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health, up to 80% of women will develop fibroids by the time they reach age 50, and black women are more likely to develop fibroids than white women.
"What I think is so important about this conversation is that more and more information about fibroids is coming out now," Chidi said, adding that she hopes this means women "get the support they need" sooner.
Chidi said she also hopes her story will teach people to listen to their bodies and represent themselves in the doctor's office by asking for the testing and imaging they need when they have concerns about uterine fibroids.
"The sooner you can get it on the table the better, in a sense that there are things that can sometimes be done to help fibroids when they're really small," she said. "When I found mine, they were really big and surgery was the only thing that could help."
What you should know about uterine fibroids
Uterine fibroids are most common in women of childbearing age, peaking when women are in their 30s to 50s, and becoming less common after menopause, according to the Office on Women's Health.
Fibroids, which are typically round growths, can range in size from an apple seed to a grapefruit. The typically benign tumors can cause no symptoms in some people but can cause debilitating symptoms in others, including stomach and back pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, longer and more painful periods, bloating, frequent urination and anemia due to blood loss, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists .
Depending on the group, miscarriage and infertility can also be symptoms of uterine fibroids.
Although there is no known cause of fibroids, factors that may increase your risk include aging, obesity, family history of uterine fibroids, vitamin D deficiency, high blood pressure and no history of pregnancy, according to the Office on Women's Health.
While all women can have fibroids, African American women have the highest rates. Every woman should have regular and open conversations with her doctor to monitor and manage these symptoms and treat them as needed, says the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Symptoms and treatment options depend largely on the size and location of the fibroid, according to Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News chief correspondent and board-certified OB-GYN.
For example, fibroids, which are small and don't cause symptoms, often don't need treatment.
Signs to ask a doctor about treatment for fibroids include symptoms such as heavy and painful periods, bleeding between periods, infertility, or concerns about the growth or type of tumor itself, according to ACOG.
Treatment for uterine fibroids may include medications to reduce fibroid symptoms, but ACOG notes that medications like birth control pills "may not prevent fibroids from growing."
MORE: This doctor is helping to offer women suffering from fibroids more options
There are also several surgical options for fibroids, ranging from minimally invasive endometrial ablation to more complicated procedures like a myomectomy to remove fibroids or a hysterectomy to completely remove the uterus.
"There are more options today than ever before," Ashton said. "When women are deciding on their treatment options, they need to ask about all options, not just those that the surgeon can perform themselves."
A woman had uterine fibroids removed the size of a 6 month pregnancy originally posted on goodmorningamerica.com

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