Fri, July 15, 2022 at 4:07 AM·6 min read
PHOTO: Erica Chidi is pictured while recovering from a 2019 procedure to remove uterine fibroids. (Erica Chidi)
Erica Chidi, co-founder and CEO of Loom, a women's health education platform, is making her private health journey -- a six-year battle with uterine fibroids -- public, she said, in hopes of making other women feel less alone.
"It can be a really lonely journey, especially because fibroids are what I consider invisible obstacles, not something someone can see and have immediate empathy," Chidi, 35, told "Good Morning America." "You can feel like, 'Maybe it's not as bad. Maybe I don't need to talk about it as much, but, for me, I knew how much I was suffering and how much I was struggling and how important it felt to share about that."
Chidi said when she first started experiencing symptoms like heavy menstrual bleeding, persistent bloating and cramps and exhaustion around six years ago, she had no idea they were symptoms of uterine fibroids -- non-cancerous tumors that grow in or on the wall of the uterus or womb, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Though she had been going to her OB-GYN for annual check-ups, Chidi said it wasn't until she pointed out to her doctor a large, hard lump in her stomach that she got a transvaginal ultrasound, an imaging procedure used to examine the vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and bladder, according to the National Cancer Institute.
The procedure found 10 uterine fibroids, the largest being the size of a grapefruit, according to Chidi.
"I was really shocked by how many were found," she said. "My uterus was stretched to about 10 weeks of pregnancy ... which is why I was having so much bloating and also explaining the bleeding."
At that time, in 2019, Chidi said she chose to undergo endometrial ablation, a "minimally invasive surgical procedure used to treat heavy menstrual bleeding," according to the Food and Drug Administration. The procedure, which targets the inner lining of the uterus, or endometrium, may shrink but does not remove uterine fibroids.
The procedure was a success, according to Chidi, but two years later, she said her symptoms of bleeding, bloating and discomfort had returned.
This time, Chidi said doctors found 23 uterine fibroids in her uterus, equivalent to the weight of a 6-month pregnancy.
"For almost two years, I was just walking around everyday feeling very much like a 6-month pregnant person, but without the amazing feeling of pregnancy," said Chidi. "Just that intense physical labor in your body without a happy ending."
Due to the growth of her fibroids, this time Chidi said she chose to undergo a myomectomy, which is a surgical procedure to remove uterine fibroids.
After undergoing the three-hour surgery in April, Chidi said she is feeling better than she has in years.
"The place that I was before I had the surgery had become my normal so I thought that's how I was supposed to feel every day," she said. "It's been really incredible to just slowly be reintroduced back to what my true baseline is."
Chidi said while a full recovery is expected to take six months post-surgery, she already has more energy and less bloating and heaviness inside her body.
She said once she realized how common uterine fibroids are, especially among Black women, she wanted to share her story.
As many as 80% of women develop fibroids by the time they reach age 50, and Black women are more likely to develop fibroids than white women, according to the Office on Women's Health at the U.S. Health Department.
"What I think is so important about having this conversation is that now there is more and more information coming forth about fibroids," said Chidi, adding that she hopes that means women are getting the "the support that they need" earlier.