This is my personal story about my own experience and should not be construed as medical advice in any way.
If you have fibroids (or know someone who does) you should read my personal story!
I’m sharing my personal story because I realize that very few women know about Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE) and not many OBGYNs recommend it for their patients who are suffering from fibroids. I want to raise awareness about UAE because I am one of the millions of women (up to 80% of women will develop fibroids) who was suffering from fibroids (at the age of 40). Fibroids are under-researched because they don’t cause problems for most women. Doctors still don’t fully understand how fibroids develop.
My fibroids symptoms were debilitating and affecting my quality of life. I experienced constant bleeding, pain and my tummy got so big it was like I was 4 months pregnant (I could only wear dresses with no restrictive waist in them)! I had to do something about the fibroids! Needless to say, I was miserable and in that physical and mental state, it was challenging for me to see a good solution to my fibroids. I didn’t like the hysterectomy option because it seemed too radical of a treatment to me. Luckily I did my own research and discovered Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE) which shrank my fibroids enough so that I no longer suffer from any fibroids symptoms. I am happy to be living pain-free again! And six years later (in 2023) I am still pain-free!!! My fibroids never returned or regrew. I consider my UAE a success.
What are fibroids?
Fibroids are defined as benign smooth muscle tumors of the uterus. My fibroids were so large that my uterus was the size of a woman who was 4 months pregnant. Fibroids are usually not a problem unless they get too large because they are benign tumors. But when they get large they can cause excessive and constant bleeding, pain, digestive and urinary problems and other issues.
How I avoided a hysterectomy
My OBGYN recommended a hysterectomy because my fibroids were so large. I was determined to fully explore alternatives to a hysterectomy because I wanted to avoid major surgery if possible. it just seemed liked there must be a way to shrink the fibroids. I tried herbal supplements and acupuncture, but they didn’t help enough. I discovered uterine artery embolization (UAE) and through my own research found a doctor in Houston who does it.
I want to emphasize that I found a doctor who did UAE on my own, I did not receive any encouragement or assistance from my OBGYN. This is important to note, because in this case I believe my doctor was not acting in my own best interests. My doctor may not have known much about UAE, or she may have been motivated to collect her fee for performing a hysterectomy rather than send me to a different doctor for treatment. Be aware that doctors can be motivated by money, just like any other human being.
Please remember that you always have to be your own health advocate, because your doctor may not always be acting in your best interests. That’s why doing your own research and consulting other doctors for second opinions is so important. I actually got second opinions from two other OBGYNs and they both recommended a hysterectomy. I was not surprised because as doctors they are trained to heal by removal.
What is a UAE?
Fibroids grow because they have a blood supply, so the UAE cuts off their blood supply by injecting a sand-like material into the uterine arteries. Before your doctor can determine if you are a good candidate for a UAE, they need an MRI to help them determine which stage of growth your fibroids are in. I actually had two MRI’s because the first one was done incorrectly. For the second MRI I went to an imaging office that my doctor doing the UAE recommended. My first MRI was done at the hospital where my OBGYN practiced. I believe my first MRI was done incorrectly due to poor staff training.
What is the recovery from UAE like?
A small incision is made for the UAE, but it didn’t bother me at all. Recovery from a UAE is extremely painful because when the blood supply is cut off from the fibroids they will start contracting. After my UAE I spent the night in the hospital for pain management. The pain when you are recovering from a UAE is severe and it was definitely the worst pain I’ve ever experienced (and I’ve had two c-sections). I was sent home with pain medication but only took it for three days. I was able to return to work six days after my UAE.
Pain management is the hardest part of recovering from a UAE. I was on a morphine drip in the hospital for 24 hours, then given prescription pain medication to take at home. After one day at home I found that my pain was increasing, so I called my doctor and got a prescription for stronger pain medication. This helped me with my pain but I was very concerned about the effects the pain medication was having on both my body and my mind.
You see I didn’t just feel like I was recovering from minor surgery, I felt more like a zombie. I had no desire to do anything – not watch TV or read books or do crafts. This is highly unusual for me, to just want to lay in bed and do absolutely nothing. So I stopped taking pain medication cold turkey three days after going home. I did not stop taking the pain medication because I felt no pain, I stopped taking it because I was worried about the effects of the pain medication and I wanted to see how I would feel without medication.
I was surprised to find out that after my last dose of pain medication wore off – I had no pain!!! That’s right – I was pain-free. I didn’t feel normal, but I didn’t feel like I needed strong pain medication.
The lesson I learned from my experience is that you want to take as little pain medication as possible and that you need to be aware that pain medication can have negative mental and physical effects. I felt that as long as I was taking the pain medication, I was going to feel like I was in pain. I was never going to feel “normal” while taking the pain medication. In fact, I didn’t feel normal until about one month after my UAE. I truly believe that this was because my body was detoxing from the strong pain medication I was on.
How to find a doctor who specializes in UAE
In order to find a doctor who is experienced with UAE you first need to know what type of doctor to search for. You will find the right doctor under the category of: Vascular and Interventional Radiology. Then you have to call each office and ask them if they do UAE because many vascular and interventional radiologists don’t do UAE.
You can also schedule a free fibroid screening at USA Fibroid Centers. They have numerous locations nationwide and they offer UAE. I don’t have any personal experience with this company, but I like that they are helping raise awareness about fibroids and letting women know that there are treatment options available.
Which doctor to see in Houston, Texas
If you live near Houston, I highly recommend Dr. Syed Raza at Premeir Vein and Vascular Center with offices in Houston (near Katy) and Cypress. I was impressed with how professional his staff were and with how quickly I was able to schedule my appointments and schedule my UAE. I felt like the procedure and recovery were well explained to me and I felt very comfortable with everything. My UAE was successful thanks to Dr. Raza and his staff. I am eternally grateful to them for helping me achieve better health and avoid major surgery.
If you suffer from fibroids, I wish you the best of luck in your journey of healing! I hope that by sharing my personal story I helped you understand UAE as another treatment option that is available.
Thanks for reading and feel free to comment with your experience living with fibroids or about a time when you had to be your own health advocate.