Beyond the physical: a qualitative assessment of the burden of symptomatic uterine fibroids on women's emotional and psychosocial health

J Psychosom Res. 2015 May;78(5):499-503. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2014.12.016. Epub 2015 Feb 2.


Objective: To qualitatively assess the burden of uterine fibroids on women's emotional health.

Methods: Sixty women (n = 60) with symptomatic uterine fibroids were recruited from an urban academic medical center and community-based organizations. Women completed qualitative, semi-structured interviews and demographic surveys. Interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Using a grounded theory approach, three coders independently identified major themes and subthemes that emerged from the interviews.

Results: The kappa among coders was 0.94. The mean age of participants was 43.0 ± 6.8. 61.7% of participants self-identified as African-American, 25.0% as Caucasian, 8.3% as Hispanic and 5.0% as Asian. Most participants exhibited a significant emotional response to their fibroids, including fear, anxiety, anger, and depression. Half of the women felt helpless and believed that they had no control over their fibroids. Many women possessed a negative self-image and cited concern over appearing less attractive, which led to difficulties becoming intimate. Several women felt that they lacked substantial support to help them deal with these issues.

Conclusion: In addition to the known high prevalence and severe physical impact of uterine fibroids, there is a significant psychological impact on women. Many women lack support to help them deal with these issues and very few seek help from a mental health professional. There is an opportunity and a need for the mental health community to address the concerns in this population, in order to improve psychological health and quality of life in patients living with this chronic condition.

Keywords: Body image; Helplessness; Interview; Mood; Qualitative; Uterine fibroids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asian / psychology
  • Asian / statistics & numerical data
  • Black or African American / psychology
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Leiomyoma / psychology*
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Narration
  • Prevalence
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life
  • Self Concept
  • Social Behavior
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • Uterine Neoplasms / psychology*
  • White People / psychology
  • White People / statistics & numerical data
  • Women's Health