When I hit play on a new podcast from SART (Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology) Fertility Experts, I had very little idea of what fibroids were. Less than twenty minutes later, however, I did, and also how they can impact fertility.
When I looked back over the pages of notes I had written whilst listening, I was surprised that I had gained so much new knowledge in such a short space of time! I would definitely recommend the series as a way to quickly learn about topics relating to infertility.
The episode's host is Dr Brooke Rossi, who is a practising reproductive endocrinologist. Dr Rossi does an excellent job of asking all the questions listeners might want to know, whilst also keeping the conversation going at a snappy pace. This means the episode never feels like it's dragging, or that time is just being filled, which I have experienced with other podcasts.
Dr Rossi is joined by an international expert on fibroids: Dr Elizabeth Stewart. I thought it great that the guest was a specialist in the specific topic being discussed in each episode, rather than just a general 'infertility expert'. I felt confident the information provided was accurate, reliable and up to date.
The experts begin the episode by answering the questions I am sure everyone who is not familiar with the term fibroids – like myself – is wondering: what are fibroids and are they a form of cancer? Dr Stewart reassures the listeners that fibroids are rarely ever cancer, especially for people of reproductive age.
Uterine fibroids are actually growths of fibrous tissue inside the wall of the uterus. In many cases they are asymptomatic and can be left alone without causing any problems, even during pregnancy. Sometimes fibroids result in symptoms such as pain or heavy bleeding and may need to be removed or treated. I was shocked to learn that they can grow up to the size of a basketball and that most women have them at some point in their lives.
Interestingly, Dr Stewart explains that fibroids are so common that white women have up to a 70 percent chance and black women have up to an 80 percent chance of developing them at some point in their lives. I was disappointed that the experts did not go into more detail about this difference and why it might occur.
Intrigued, I did some research of my own and discovered that this is an active topic of discussion, and an article on the subject appeared in the New York Times in April of this year. Overall, it is not clear why there is such a disparity between the prevalence of fibroids in black and white women. A paper published in Seminars in Reproductive Medicine in 2017 explained that there are both genetic and environmental factors involved and another paper, published in 2013 in the Journal of Women's Health, suggests that one of the environmental factors could be vitamin D deficiency. I think the episode could have been improved by covering these studies, as it is important for science podcasts to consider representation, and make sure their information is accessible to everyone.
Although I do not fit the podcast's target audience of people looking to start a family, at 24, I am easily within the age bracket of women of reproductive age who are likely to experience fibroids. Therefore, I found that the information presented was still relevant to me and I was surprised that I had not heard more about fibroids before, particularly after finding out how common they are. Given the podcast's aim to inform, however, it is again important that it addresses all potential patients, and that issues of representation are addressed.
At the end the episode looks to the future, which I liked, and the discussion of future treatment options was positive. If you are interested in the subject, I would recommend giving the episode a listen. If you already know a lot about fibroids, there are other episodes in the series that are just as good, including 'What is IVF?' and 'Donor eggs: fresh or frozen?'.
The podcast is relatively new, and there are only four episodes available so far, but it seems that more episodes will be released in the coming months.