Unfortunately, that isn’t what happened.
Black women like me are two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with fibroids than white women are, though no one is sure why. I had fibroids during my first pregnancy, but they didn’t cause any symptoms. I would even describe the pregnancy as easy. But when three tumors revealed themselves on an early ultrasound the second time around, my OB-GYN told me that she’d monitor them, but that they shouldn’t cause any issues. Though one of my fibroids was considered large, the size of a fibroid isn’t necessarily an indicator of future complications. And for many women, fibroids cause no symptoms at all.
My fibroids must have missed the memo.
When a healthy fibroid is not getting enough blood flow it “stops growing and shrinks,” and can become very painful, said Dr. Hilda Hutcherson, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. This can happen when a patient isn’t pregnant, she added, but the increased hormones of pregnancy can trigger a fibroid to break down.
When I came home from the hospital, the intense pain from my degenerated fibroid lessened, but never fully went away. The recommended over-the-counter pain relievers had no effect. If I walked more than a few blocks, I would pay with more pain. And as the baby grew, so did the pressure on my other two fibroids. Bed rest and heating pads became part of my daily routine.
Where was this “normal pregnancy” I’d been promised?
Since I’d been told I wouldn’t be experiencing any further pain, I repeatedly asked my obstetrician what could be causing it. Her pat responses offered little comfort: Fibroids don’t usually hurt, she’d say, and what I felt was likely the discomfort of pregnancy. I began feeling like a bothersome patient desperate to have my pain taken seriously. I’d been pregnant before, this felt different. If the fibroids weren’t responsible, like my doctor suggested, I needed to find out what was.
I turned to late night scrolling, trolling the web for answers, but struggling to find descriptions that matched my own experience.