Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)Stephanie Odili knew something was wrong when her stomach ballooned to three times its usual size.
Why Black women are more likely to have fibroids than any other race group
"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.
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 c