• 75% of women above 35 years visit a gynaecologist with pains that are later found out to be fibroids
• However, many don't have any symptoms. In those who do, the symptoms can be influenced by the location, size and number
The pressure to get children, leading to depression and feeling less of a woman. This is what Kelly Njoroge, 22, went through as she grappled with fibroids.
The condition has made her life much more difficult, coupled with pressures from people around her.
When Njoroge was first diagnosed with having fibroids in 2010, she was only 13 years old and in class seven.
Uterine fibroids are abnormal but benign (non-cancerous) growths or tumours in the muscle of the uterus.
"I started getting painful periods that were irregular. There is a time I missed my period for three months, making me go to a gynaecologist. He said it was normal to have irregular periods," she told the Star.
The doctor assured her there was no cause for alarm.
"In mid-2017, I started feeling some pain on the left side of the pelvis, and I ignored it. Then In December that year, it became extremely painful. There was something throbbing. I started thinking of the worst possibilities," she said.
She went to the doctor and was given two options: that she could be having cysts or fibroids.
"The doctor said I had numerous tiny cysts on my left ovary, and fibroids in my uterus. He asked how old I was and advised me to get married and get children soon," she said.
Njoroge said she was only given some contraceptives to manage the fibroids and cysts.
"When the pain became too much, I would go for painkillers. It reached a time I stopped taking contraceptives. I thought of getting rid of the fibroids because I was tired of the medication," she said.
"I went to do a scan again and the nurse said I did not have much time. She said I needed to get married soon and get kids," she said amid tears.
Confusion hit Njoroge, making her start thinking of whether she was infertile since she did not understand her condition well.
"My fibroids are hereditary. It was depressing a lot. The doctor said I would start growing a lot of hair. I have hair on my face, beards, my body is extremely hairy. This was because of the cysts. But the fibroids were also weighing down on me," she said.
It really affected our relationship because I started developing an attitude in the relationship so he could leave, and eventually we did break upKelly Njoroge
Njoroge said when she was diagnosed, she had been in a relationship for five years.
"He was a very nice and extremely supportive man, but when I was told all this, I went home crying and kept on looking at the doctor's report," she said.
"I started asking myself, am I even going to have babies? It took a lot of time to accept my situation.
"Having dated for five years, we would talk about having kids, and at some point, it got into my head that I may not be able to have babies."
Njoroge said she made a decision to let his boyfriend go so he could find a woman who can give him babies.
"It really affected our relationship because I started developing an attitude in the relationship so he could leave, and eventually we did break up. At some point we were fighting and I told him to go and get someone else," she said.
"The thought of getting married crosses my mind, but it would just stress me because I have heard of couples who are treated unfairly by their in-laws for not having children, and it scares me."
A clearly disturbed Njoroge said she had been receiving immense pressure from her mother to get married.
"There is too much pressure. There is no week that goes by without her calling and asking, who is the son-in-law? I need babies. The pressure is real," she says.
"With time, I grew a thick skin. It is depressing. I would feel like less of a woman if I were married and had no babies."
But Njoroge is just one of the many women going through fibroid 'nightmares'. I meet Sharon* (not her real name), 30, and she also tells me how she grappled with fibroids, which eventually led to a miscarriage.
Sharon discovered she had fibroids when she suffered a miscarriage at six weeks into her pregnancy in 2013.
Speaking to the Star in Rongai, she said, "I always had painful periods and assumed it was just how mine would always be. I did not know that fibroids was the cause. Then I learnt that the fibroids may have kept the baby from implanting."
Sharon was scared of any eventuality. Now happily married and with a bouncing baby boy, she said when she was pregnant, she could not help but feel afraid.
"While expectant, they found another fibroid, and as the baby got bigger, the fibroid was quite close to where his head was meant to come out from," she said.
With excitement on her face, Sharon, said the fibroids never interfered with the baby.
Kenyatta National Hospital chief gynaecologist John Ong'ech downplayed the link between fibroids and miscarriages.
"Rarely will fibroids cause miscarriages. That can only happen if they are growing inside the uterus. So generally, it will depend on the location," he said.
But even men go through the pain of seeing their wives go through the pain that comes with fibroids.
Speaking to the Star, businessman Patrick Ouko, said he learnt that his wife had fibroids five years ago. He said they were treated until they were advised that they would need surgery this year.
"She had intramural fibroids. She would have very painful and irregular periods and most importantly, conception was also affected," he said.
Ouko said after the diagnosis, they talked to a few friends about it.
"We were scared that it would prevent her from getting pregnant. This is the reason we decided to go for surgery, as medication had failed to correct the situation," he said.
Noting that they spent around Sh322,000, Ouko advised other men to take a keen interest in their partner’s health.
Ong'ech says fibroids can only prevent a woman from conceiving when it is inside the uterus.
"In this case, the fibroid growth will block the tubes and thus it will be hard for a woman to get pregnant," he said.