At the top of the year, Kandi Burruss decided to try her hand at the in-vitro fertilization process. The reality star has been quite vocal in the past regarding her desire to have another child. At 38 years old, she was ready to take the next major step with her new husband, Todd Tucker. Prior to exploring alternative options such as IVF and IVI, the couple tried to conceive the old fashioned way, but after nearly two years of unprotected sex with no success, they sought medical attention.
“We weren’t trying to prevent it for a couple of years, and nothing was happening,” Burruss told Madame Noire of their pre-IVF experience. “You know how you kind of hope that you’ll do it on your own, luck up, and it just happens?”
Testing eventually revealed the source of the problem: a uterine fibroid.
“We realized I had a fibroid—a big one—inside the cavity of the uterus where your baby would implant,” said the reality star.
WebMD defines uterine fibroids as the most common “benign lumps” (or tumors) that “grow on the uterus” and in some cases, these growths can cause complications with conception. Thankfully, if needed, these tumors can be surgically removed. And if no other causes of infertility are evident and all goes well, meaning no other complications are present, the couple should be able to conceive. Burruss underwent surgery to get rid of the fibroid in the cavity of her uterus, and somewhere between one and two months later, opted to try in-vitro fertilization to increase their chances of conceiving.
“We decided to do IVF because this is my last year in my 30s, and I wasn’t trying to keep trying without any results or whatever. We decided to go for it with the IVF treatments. We started in February/March.”
The singer’s first IVF attempt was a success. She’s currently 24 weeks pregnant.
“Luckily for us, it was a blessing, and we actually had success with the first IVF treatment,” said Burruss. “It takes a couple of months for you to go through the whole process of injections, retrieving the eggs and all of that stuff, then allowing them to put them back in and praying that they take. One of our eggs took.”
Identifying fibroids as a possible source of infertility is half the battle for a percentage of women living with the benign growths, but for others, it’s merely the beginning. For some, the fight against fibroids can be a trying, emotionally draining and painful process, and in rare cases, fibroids can grow back rapidly, drastically hindering chances of conception.
“I work with my clients to navigate the spiritual and emotional hurdles they encounter as they journey through fibroids and infertility. Such as bitterness, hopelessness, broken self-worth, jealousy, grief, relational disconnects and even depression,” said fertility coach Gessie Thompson. “We work to develop and execute the right action plan for them.”
Thompson authored Hope Beyond Fibroids: Stories of Miracle Babies & the Journey to Motherhood in hopes of inspiring others after experiencing her own 10-year battle with infertility. She went through a total of 10 surgeries, five IVF cycles, one miscarriage and more than 100 days spent in the hospital.
“I first discovered I had fibroids in 2001 because I wasn’t getting pregnant when my husband and I decided it was time to expand our family. And, I kept having to fight those fibroids in my 10-year journey as they came back every three to five years–enduring a total of five fibroids surgeries,” said Thompson. “Each surgery brought more complications, including additional major surgeries and severe scarring that restricted my options for getting pregnant to IVF.”
“I felt helpless, powerless and to some degree emasculated watching her go through this process,” admits her husband, Marc Thompson. “I also felt awe, wonder, deep love, and appreciation that she would go through it for the sake of our family dream. It was a roller coaster of emotions almost hourly and definitely daily.”
The couple eventually did conceive, and on September 8, 2011, Thompson gave birth to 2.5-pound baby girl—but even that victory came with challenges.
“When I did finally get pregnant with my daughter, she had to the fight fibroids that remained in my womb for her very life because they were siphoning off the blood flow to her–restricting her growth.”
The couple’s miracle baby was delivered early, by C-section, but Thompson’s heart stopped on the operating table.
“I knew something was wrong when they asked me to leave the delivery room. Gessie had just told them she felt cold and dizzy… I had no idea that she was approaching ‘death’s door’ literally with her heart stopping for six seconds,” Thompson’s husband recalled.
Doctors were able to revive the then mom-to-be. Her baby girl, Nia, celebrated her 4th birthday this month. Thompson put an end to her personal battle with fibroids when she underwent a hysterectomy following Nia’s birth, but she still champions for other women plagued by the sometimes troubling condition.
“I am a board member of the 501c3 non-profit The White Dress Project for uterine fibroids awareness and research. We wear white to empower the women suffering in silence with fibroids. They don’t wear white because of the fear and shame rooted in the epidemic associated with heavy bleeding, bloating and more. Awareness and education are the first steps in creating a platform to address the issue of fibroids and legislation is key.”
While some fibroid cases can have a negative impact on reproduction and fertility, having them does not guarantee that one will have issues conceiving. In fact, plenty of women living with fibroids go on to conceive without issue.
“Up to 80% of African American females have fibroids, so obviously, they are very common in our population; however, they do not always hinder pregnancies,” said women’s health expert and gynecologist, Dr. Jessica Shepherd. “Gessie’s story is exceptional but the good news for women is that if you have a fibroid, it does not mean that you can’t get pregnant.”
“The issue with fibroids and pregnancy is location, ” she said. “When they are in the cavity of the uterus, they can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, or they can increase the risk of a miscarriage. Or, if you do have implantation and do have a pregnancy, it can increase your risk of preterm labor. There are women who can have fibroids in the cavity who don’t have these problems and carry the baby to full term. One of the options to remove fibroids in the cavity of the uterus is by a hysteroscopic myomectomy and can be done with a tissue removal system such as MyoSure.”
Dr. Shepherd also discouraged fibroid hysteria.
“Without the correct information, some women can go off on a tangent thinking they can’t get pregnant, but that’s not always the case,” said Shepherd. “There are fibroids that are not symptomatic, and there are fibroids that are, so we have to make sure that we put them in the proper category before we start sending out red alerts.”
To learn more about Gessie Thompson, Hope Beyond Fibroids and the White Dress Project, head over to www.hopebeyondfibroids.com.
To learn more information on hysteroscopic myomectomies, head over to www.Myosure.com and Facebook for ChangeTheCycle.