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“It was like I was four months pregnant,” the 23-year-old told CNN.

She had also been experiencing heavy menstrual bleeding for years, with her periods sometimes lasting for up to 10 days.

“I was wearing double pads and changing almost by the hour,” Odili said.

The writer, from Nigeria, would also become doubled over with sharp pains in her stomach.

“I didn’t know what was going on so I started taking painkillers for the pain and birth control to stop the bleeding.”

It was on one of her many visits to the doctor that a scan revealed the swelling and her other symptoms was caused by fibroids.

Uterine fibroids or fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop in or around the uterus.

The growths are made of fibrous and muscle tissue and have different effects on women. Some of the symptoms include frequent urination, heavy and painful periods, stomach ache and pain during sex.

Debilitating symptoms

Although any woman of reproductive age can develop fibroids, Black and African women are more likely to have fibroids than any race group, according to doctors.

A report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that Black women are three times more likely to develop fibroids than white women, and are less likely to have small-sized fibroids compared to their counterparts.

In 2014, Tanika Gray Valbrun, a US-based Jamaican reporter wrote legislation in the state of Georgia to get the month of July declared as Fibroid Awareness Month in the US.

Valbrun told CNN that when she was 15 years old, she began experiencing painful and heavy menstrual periods.

“Eventually, I got diagnosed with fibroids in 2001, I was 23,” she said

Now 42, she said the fight for an awareness month was to show the world that fibroids are just as important as other medical conditions.

Too many Black and African women suffer in silence with their symptoms, she says, making it difficult to share knowledge about its effects.

Valbrun added that despite the large numbers of women who have to deal with excruciating pain and other debilitating symptoms, fibroids are not listed on the website of top health organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO has listed and done extensive research on other health topics and conditions affecting women such as female genital mutilation, cancer, and infertility.

“I just don’t understand it, like, if so many Black women have fibroids, why aren’t more people talking about it? Why aren’t there so many walks and campaigns like there are for other medical conditions?” she said.

CNN contacted the WHO for comment but did not immediately receive a response ahead of publication.

‘Excruciating pain’

Dr. Ugochukwu Ekwunife, a consultant obstetrician and gynecologist at Lagoon Hospital in Lagos, Nigeria, says the exact cause of fibroids is unknown, but they have been linked to the hormone estrogen.

Estrogen is the female reproductive hormone produced by the ovaries, it is responsible for the development of the female reproductive system, he said.

“Fibroids are common with women within the reproductive age group, that’s age 16 to 50. Women within this age group have their estrogen levels at the highest making them more likely to get fibroids,” Dr. Ekwunife told CNN.

Audrey Mutare says she has been battling pain with fibroids since her early teens.

“I had all the symptoms growing up, heavy bleeding, and excruciating pain. With every cycle, I got really sick. But I never imagined fibroids, I just thought it was normal for African women to go through period pain,” she explained.

Fibroids can also cause complications with pregnancy and childbirth as ones located in the inner lining of the womb can distort the growth of babies, according to Dr. Ekwunife.

Mutare had a miscarriage in 2014.

“I went to a gynecologist and he said to me ‘you are nine weeks pregnant but you have these gigantic fibroids.’

Audrey Mutare eventually had her baby Zoey after several miscarriages following her fibroid diagnosis.

“I was so petrified because I didn’t know what that meant for my pregnancy,” Mutare told CNN.

A week after the doctor’s visit, the 33-year-old Zimbabwean lost her pregnancy.

In 2015, Mutare had another miscarriage, forcing her to consider a fibroid embolization, a noninvasive procedure used to shrink fibroid tumors. “I had really high hopes but when I lost yet another baby, I knew I had to do the embolization. For someone who loves the idea of family, I was so scared,” she said.

After the embolization, Mutare found out she was pregnant again and was placed under strict supervision by her gynecologist.

According to her, she was confined to bed for a significant part of her pregnancy as a safety measure to avoid complications, “my baby was born so small, you could tell the fibroids were competing with her for blood supply,” she explained.

Period stigma

Nana Konamah, an entrepreneur and wellness activist from Ghana also suffered a miscarriage after being diagnosed with fibroids. She has been spreading awareness throughout July on the condition.

Through her website and social media pages, she is discussing period stigma, and the need to address heavy and painful menstruation with medical experts and women living with fibroids.
In 2019, Konamah made a documentary about fibroids and its implications with her friend, Jessica Nabongo.

“I had a myomectomy in July 2019. It was a rollercoaster of emotions and I was angry at my body because I felt like it had betrayed me,” Konamah said.

A myomectomy is the surgical removal of fibroids. They can also be removed through a hysterectomy (removal of the womb), Dr. Ekwunife said.

Nana Konamah has started a campaign around period stigma to fight the silence around heavy periods.

“There is a chance of recurrence even when the fibroids are taken out, so some women opt for hysterectomies. Removing the womb eliminates any chance of fibroids considering they grow in or around it,” he explained.

He added that for women who are not interested in surgery, there are medical ways of managing symptoms.

“There are some drugs that can be given to reduce the amount of blood flow during periods. There are certain injections that can shrink the size of the fibroids and painkillers for the pain. All of these methods have their side effects, and have to be communicated with the patient,” he said.

Konamah echoed Valbrun’s sentiments that more research is needed on fibroids, particularly in Africa where women are not likely to speak out.

Valbrun now runs an organization, the White Dress Project, where she gathers support and promotes awareness in the US and South Africa through education and advocacy.

“It’s called the White Dress Project because we use the white as a symbol of hope. When you have fibroids you don’t feel comfortable wearing white because of the heavy bleeding. I wanted to turn that negative to a positive and use it as a symbol of hope,” she said.

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A Tory MP Has Branded His Government’s Decision On Trans Rights A “Crushing Disappointment”

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Trade Secretary and Women and Equalities minister Liz Truss (Credit: PA)

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A Tory MP has branded the government’s decision to row back on plans to reform transgender rights “a crushing disappointment”.

Crispin Blunt tabled an urgent question in the Commons on Thursday after ministers dropped plans to allow trans people to self-identify under reforms to the Gender Recognition Act,.

He said women and equalities minister Liz Truss, who is also the trade secretary, had presented MPs with “an inherently unstable settlement that will have to be addressed hopefully sooner rather than later” and that delays in its release had contributed to upset in the trans community.

“Does she appreciate that trans people cannot discern any strong or coherent reason for this screeching change of direction?” he added.

“Does she understand the anger at the prospect of them receiving their fundamental rights being snatched away?

“The longer this uncertainty has been allowed to continue, the worse the fear and anger have become.”

The Conservative backbencher said the contrast in both Ms Truss’s reputation across her twin briefs and her work on equalities compared to that of her predecessor Penny Mordaunt was “horribly stark”. 

“I welcome and enjoy the dynamism of my right honourable friend, that she brings to her unprecedented historic responsibilities in retaking control of British trade policy after nearly half a century,” he said.

“The command of technical, economic and legal detail required is at once intimidating and inspiring. As a great trading nation, it commands all her attention and she has risen to the trade challenge.

“The prime minister has done her, and the nation, no favours by continuing to overburden her after the election at such an extraordinary time for trade.”

He added: “Does she see that the underlying trend of the majority of people in this country is following the path set by a change of attitude in society a generation earlier towards those with different sexualities?

“And the vast majority, the vast, vast majority of LGBT people will stand in solidarity with trans people. Does she appreciate that this statement does not command a majority in this House?”

But fellow Tory MP Ben Bradley defended Ms Truss, accusing Mr Blunt of being “way out on a limb”.

He wrote on Twitter: [In my opinion], most colleagues welcome the compromise where can make things administratively easier for trans people, whilst still taking a good look at the implications of education, healthcare and treatments.”

He added that Ms Truss had found a “fair balance” in her response, and that any issues with the approach stems from the “previous administration massively overpromising” on potential changes to the process.

Under the government’s plans, the need for a Gender Recognition Certificate for a person to legally change sex will remain the same, but the process will be “modernised” and the cost reduced.

Ms Truss said the government is “also taking action to ensure transgender people can access the appropriate healthcare they need”.

Labour’s shadow minister for women and equalities, Marsha de Cordova, said minsters had “let trans people down…after three years of toxic debate”.

Ms Truss said she believed the “right conclusion” had been reached to ensure “proper checks and balances” in the system and that the government’s proposals were “in line with other major nations”.

“We believe in individual liberty and in the humanity and dignity of every person,” she added.

“It is my view that the balance struck in the existing legislation is correct.”

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Dreamworld accident: Australian theme park fined over four deaths

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image copyrightAlamy

image caption(L-R) Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett, Roozbeh Araghi and Cindy Low died in 2016

The operator of Australia’s Dreamworld theme park has been fined A$3.6m (£2m; $2.5m) over the deaths of four people on a malfunctioning water ride.

Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett, Roozbeh Araghi and Cindy Low died in October 2016 when their raft crashed into another and overturned, crushing them.

Park operator Ardent Leisure admitted in July to breaching safety laws.

The company said it accepted responsibility and had worked to improve safety standards.

The four victims – all adults – died almost instantly after the Thunder River Rapids Ride rafts collided, an inquiry heard in 2018. Two children were also on board but survived.

The accident at Australia’s biggest theme park was caused by a pump that malfunctioned near the end of the ride.

On Monday, a court said the company had failed in its duty of care and should have taken steps to make the ride safer.

“Steps were not that complex or burdensome and only mildly inconvenient and really were inexpensive,” Magistrate Pamela Dowse said.

“They operated the most iconic amusement park in the country, which targeted and attracted families.

“There was complete and blind trust placed in the defendant by every guest who rode the Thunder River Rapids Ride.”

image captionThe raft carrying passengers flipped in the collision

The size of the fine reflected the severity of the company’s failure, she added. Ardent had been facing a maximum A$4.5m fine.

Chief executive John Osborne said: “Ardent accepts responsibility for this tragedy, and we fully accept the consequences.”

Families of the victims also delivered statements to the sentencing court on Monday, expressing grief and anger over their loss.

  • Australia theme park admits guilt over ride deaths

“That Cindy died violently is unacceptable to us,” said Helen Cook, aunt to Ms Low. “Knowing her death could have been avoided is unacceptable and infuriating.”

In February, a coroner found the accident had been “only a matter of time” as the theme park had not properly assessed the ride’s safety risk in over 30 years.

Dreamworld briefly shut down for six weeks after the accident in 2016, during which it demolished the ride.

The company has reported operating losses every year since the accident, including more than A$260m in losses in its theme park division.

It is also fighting a class action from shareholders who claim the company misled them on the park’s safety measures.

Related Topics

  • Theme parks

  • Queensland
  • Australia

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Swiss voters clearly reject curbs on EU immigration

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The Swiss People’s Party (SVP) had forced a binding referendum on the EU agreement in a bid to curb immigration to the country where foreigners make up a quarter of the population.

The measure lost by 62%-38% margin.

The SVP – the biggest party in parliament – has long pushed to take back control of immigration, echoing some arguments pro-Brexit politicians used in the run-up to Britain’s exit from the EU. It won a referendum on the issue in 2014, only to see parliament water down its implementation.

Opponents said the plan would have robbed business of skilled workers and torpedoed accords that enhance non-EU member Switzerland’s access to the crucial EU single market.

Under Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, the referendum could have forced the government to annul the EU agreement if negotiations did not produce a deal on ending the pact voluntarily, something Brussels has ruled out.

A “guillotine clause” meant that ending free movement would have toppled other bilateral pacts on land and air transport, procurement, technical barriers to trade, and research.

Around two-thirds of the 2.1 million foreigners living in Switzerland in 2019 were citizens of the EU, as well as Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, which with Switzerland are members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

More than 450,000 Swiss live in the EU.

The domestic political battle immediately turned to Switzerland’s biggest foreign policy headache: a stalled treaty meant to cement ties with the EU but which critics say infringes too much on Swiss sovereignty and would never win a referendum.

The treaty would have Bern routinely adopt single market rules and create a new platform to resolve disputes.

With questions open over state aid, rules to protect high Swiss wages, and access to welfare benefits, the Swiss have dragged their feet while trying to forge a domestic consensus, triggering a row over cross-border stock trading.

Amid relatively high turnout, voters narrowly blocked an attempt to make it easier to shoot wolves deemed a threat to livestock.

In an unexpectedly close vote, they approved the government’s plans to buy new fighter jets for up to 6 billion Swiss francs ($6.46 billion).

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