Nearly all women—really!—have fibroids. The numbers are startling: As many as 70% of white women and 80% of black women are thought to have these non-cancerous uterine tumors by age 50. It’s tough to think of any other health concern that even comes to close to being such a universal experience.
For years, doctors understood very little about fibroids and how to treat them. The lack of knowledge resulted in frequent hysterectomies, sometimes unnecessarily (some estimates say 20% of women who receive hysterectomies don’t need one). At least part of the mystery surrounding fibroids comes from the fact that we don’t typically talk about them, making it easier for the condition to go unnoticed and untreated.
In some women with fibroids, that’s actually okay: In many cases, fibroids don’t cause any symptoms. But for other women, fibroids can cause bleeding (fibroids are just one of the reasons you shouldn’t assume your heavy period bleeding is normal), pain, and problems with urination or bowel movements. Fibroids can even grow large enough to visibly distend the abdomen and cause fertility problems—and leaving those untreated is, obviously, problematic.
That’s why we wanted to know what having fibroids is really like, from women living that reality right now. Here’s what they had to say, in their own words. Hear from all 10 women here.