Two small studies assess the emotional impact fibroids have on women and bring to light the burden they place on African American women.
Uterine fibroids are a common problem that may affect 60% or more of women over the age of 45, and have been shown to disproportionately affect women of African descent. Incidence of fibroids may be even more common because they are thought to be underreported. Not only is the cause of fibroids not well understood, but the emotional impact they have on women of all races and ethnicities is not well studied.
Two studies presented at ASRM 2014 included 48 women who were recruited from an urban medical center and community organizations. The women filled out questionnaires where they self-reported their ethnicity as African American (62.5%), Caucasian (20.8%), Hispanic (10.4%), or Asian (6.3%). Most of the women had a 4-year college degree and the annual income and educational status didn't differ significantly between ethnic groups. Women were interviewed in a one-on-one session to determine their attitudes and feelings towards uterine fibroids.
In the first study, which assessed emotional impact, most women reported significant and negative feelings about fibroids which varied from worry and concern to fear, anxiety, sadness, and depression. More than half of the women reported that the heavy periods associated with the fibroids made them feel helpless and as if they had no control. Other problems and worries reported included a negative self-image and appearing unattractive, overweight, or even pregnant. These issues with self esteem translated into difficulties in being intimate with a partner. Treatment for the mental health aspect of fibroids was lacking, and only 2 women reporting receiving support from a mental health professional.
The second study explored how the emotional impact of fibroid treatment differed between women of the 4 reported ethnicities. A full 90% of women indicated they were concerned over their fibroid treatment options and believed that they might not have been offered all the available treatments. African American women were more likely than women of other ethnicities to be interested in a guaranteed permanent treatment and to be averse to surgery. Of all the women who had surgery for their fibroids, African American women were more likely to report dissatisfaction and a difficult recovery.
The authors concluded that the mental wellness of women with uterine fibroids is of significant concern, and they suggested that education and psychological support should be offered by health care professionals.