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uterine fibroid symptoms career woman

Uterine Fibroids Symptoms And Your Career

Introduction

Uterine Fibroids and their symptoms can have an effect on women at varying levels.
Some with fibroids experience no or little symptoms.
However, this is not always the case and for other women who do suffer symptoms, fibroids can impact both their home and working lives.

“Fibroids often present no symptoms, but one-quarter of women with fibroids say their day-to-day life is affected by the growths”

So what are fibroids and why is it important to talk about impact on your career?

On the UK National Health Service (NHS) website. Uterine Fibroids are described as:

“non-cancerous growths that develop in or around the womb (uterus)“

And can result in the following symptoms:

  • Heavy bleeding and pain during periods
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Anaemia
  • Weak bladder
  • Infertility (rare cases)

As a working woman, I struggled to meet my career goals while living with fibroids.
The symptoms affected my working life on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, I like so many other women suffered in silence for quite a while.
I never thought that I could get the right support from my employers - it appeared too personal and I did not have the confidence to bring up the issue.
Unfortunately, some employers don’t have policies and practices in place to support women.

Thankfully, I eventually found a solution with the support of my employers, which had a positive result for my career.

In this article, I will talk about what worked for me, how my employers supported me and the measures put in place to reduce the impact of fibroid symptoms on my career.

So, why do uterine fibroids symptoms cause a problem for women’s career?

“It is estimated that 50 % of UK women have fibroids at some point in their childbearing years, however up to 80% of Black women will develop fibroids.”

“In other studies: 24 percent of the working women said fibroid symptoms kept them from reaching their career potential”

24 out of every 100 women saying that uterine fibroids are hampering their career potential, is a clear indication that the symptoms can certainly be a problem.

A symptom I personally struggled with during the working day was heavy period bleeding.

Having to rush to the bathroom/toilet was often uncomfortable, especially during an important meeting.
A result was also anaemia which made it difficult to concentrate and physically weak and tired during the working day.
I felt alone and not confident enough to confide in my manager and colleagues.
My sickness absence record shot up.

I realised recently from talking to other women that they also experienced the same issues that I had.

Continuing to suffer the symptoms in silence can do more harm to your career goals

It was not long before I realised that my silence was harming my career prospects.

I could not attend an important training course resulting in me missing out on a career opportunity.

Enough was enough!!

My sickness record triggered an Occupational Health referral.
I also now had the courage to speak to my Manager about how uterine fibroid symptoms were having an effect on my role as an employee.
He listened and was understanding -  I discovered that a female member of his family was also a sufferer, so he did have some understanding of uterine fibroids and their symptoms
In hindsight, I could have taken action sooner.

uterine fibroids symptoms - impact on career

So, what was put in place to avoid fibroid symptoms impacting my career?

The important first step was my referral to Occupational Health (or OH).

Some people think that OH will only support stress related conditions, but that is not the case.

Talking about my situation had a calming effect on me during my OH assessment.
I had only talked to my doctor and family about my fibroid symptoms.

My OH referral was the driver I needed to have the confidence to work with my employers on taking action and reducing the impact on my working life and career.
A number of recommendations were made and a plan to give me the right support were put in place:

Working from Home/Remote Working

Being able to work from home for one or two days a week had the biggest transformation for me.

It helped avoid having to travel into work on days when I was in pain or too weak.

It also provided the ideal way to continue working in a setting that I could feel comfortable with, helping me to be more productive - a big plus for my career goals!
Depending on the type of work you do, a home computer and internet connection can help.
Working remotely from your work office cannot work for everyone, but if the nature of your work allows for it, I say go for it.

Part Time/Flexible Working

Part time and flexible working can help you to dedicate more time to managing your fibroids and any symptoms better. But again, it depends on your type of work/employer.

In some countries, there is legislation in place that allows women to work flexibly (or adjust your working hours in a day so that you are not just working the typical 9 to 5)

Take E-Learning Courses

E-learning (or electronic learning) is a great alternative to face-to-face or classroom based training.

E-learning is using technology to deliver training anytime, anyplace.

For a woman who has to attend courses to ‘climb the career ladder’, fibroid symptoms can make it difficult to travel and attend training courses.

E-learning allowed me to take certain courses. either at my own workstation in the office or while working from home, cutting down on the travelling which make it difficult for a woman suffering the symptoms of fibroids.

Reduce physical exertion

A physically demanding job that, for example, requires heavy lifting can make symptoms such as abdominal pain worse.

Talk to your employers about making arrangements to either reduce strenuous tasks or use tools or devices to support.

Dietary & Exercise Advice

Some OH service provide a nutrition and exercise advice and information to workers, which can be useful to get you thinking about changes you can take to avoid fibroid dominance.

My OH service arranged Yoga classes for beginners which proved helpful in promoting stress relief and better well being.

 

What If Your Employer Has No Occupational Health Support?

Or there is a lack of understanding from employers/managers on the impact fibroid symptoms can have on your career:

Check if you can be involved with a health support group in your local communities (some are managed by hospitals or health authorities).

There is also information online (the internet), but ensure that you source information from authority sites such as the NHS in the UK.

 

In Summary

So there you go!

The truth about uterine fibroids symptoms and impact on your working life and career is that looking after your health and well being while at work should be taken just as seriously as anywhere else.

Don't know about your employers occupational health policies and practices? Then find out.

Once you know and understand the process, it is far easier to agree on the required steps to lessen the impact of fibroid symptoms on your career aspirations.

I certainly found that the saying "a happy employee is a productive employee" applied when I took those steps.

In fact, I would also add to that saying "and a motivated and successful employee".

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