What Are They?
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths of the muscle tissue of the uterus.
They can range in number and size from a single growth to multiple growths, and from very small to large.
As many as 70% to 80% of all women will have fibroids by the time they are 50 and this is associated with excess oestrogen- oestrogen dominance.
They can also have a number of symptoms.
Fibroids may cause very mild symptoms, none at all, or symptoms can be severe. In women who do feel symptoms, these uterine growths can cause:
– Pressure on the bladder or rectum
– Frequent urination
– Constipation and/or rectal pain
– Lower back and/or abdominal pain
If fibroids become very large, they can distend the stomach, making a woman look pregnant.
This can be something you also notice as Fibroids may also cause changes to your period, including:
– Mild to severe cramping and pain
– Heavier bleeding, sometimes with blood clots
– Longer or more frequent menstruation
– Spotting or bleeding between periods
Is it Fibroids or Endometriosis?
Fibroids are one cause of severe menstrual pain, but the pain also can be caused by endometriosis.
Endometriosis occurs when tissue from the inner lining of the uterus grows in other parts of the body – such as on the outside of the uterus and bladder.
This tissue breaks down and bleeds during your period, causing pain during your cycle and painful scar tissue. The pain of fibroids or endometriosis also can occur between periods.
Types of Fibroids
Intramural fibroids, the most common, grow in the wall of the uterus.
Subserosal fibroids grow on the outside of the uterus. As they grow larger, they can cause pain due to their size or pressure put on nearby organs.
Submucosal fibroids grow just underneath the uterine lining and can crowd into the uterus cavity and lead to heavy bleeding and other more serious complications.
Pedunculated fibroids grow on small stalks inside or outside the uterus.
It’s possible to have more than one type of fibroid.
Who Gets Fibroids?
While it’s unclear exactly why women develop fibroids, some patterns have been observed.
– They usually occur between the ages of 30 and 40.
– They are more common in black women and then grow more quickly and appear at a younger age.
– Having a family member with fibroids increases a woman’s risk.
– Being overweight or obese and having high blood pressure also may increase your risk.
Anaemia can occur in some women with fibroids who experience unusually heavy bleeding during their periods may become anaemic.
Many cases of anemia due to iron deficiency from periods are mild and can be treated with a change in diet and iron supplement pills. Untreated anemia can lead to fatigue and lethargy — and, in severe cases, heart problems.
Pregnancy may be an issue as although fibroids usually do not interfere with fertility and pregnancy, some women may experience more pregnancy complications and delivery risks.
Fibroids may cause the baby to be in an abnormal position and can cause premature labour. They may also cause pelvic pain and heavy bleeding after delivery, which may require surgery.
In some instances, fibroids may block your fallopian tubes and if growing along the inner uterine wall may make it difficult for a fertilised egg to attach.
When to See a Doctor
Check with your doctor if you have the following fibroid symptoms:
– Heavy menstrual bleeding
– Periods that became more painful
– Frequent urination or inability to control the flow of urine
– A change in the length of your period over three to six cycles
– New persistent pain or heaviness in lower abdomen or pelvis
Your doctor may feel moderate and large uterine fibroids during a routine pelvic exam and tests, such as an ultrasound, can show information about size and location of other fibroids.
For women with fibroids who are trying to get pregnant, a specific test can show an outline of the uterus and fallopian tubes and may detect abnormalities. Other procedures to visualize the inside of the uterus or abdomen also may be needed.
There are a number of things available, depending on the severity of the condition.
Pain medications, such as acetaminophen, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen can help relieve menstrual cramping.
Bioidentical progesterone has been shown to be highly effective in helping women manage fibroids and heavy bleeding, and supplementing with a progesterone cream could be of benefit.
Oral contraceptives manage levels of oestrogen and progesterone but using synthetic progestins. This usually leads to lighter periods and can alleviate some of the pain associated with fibroids, such as heavy bleeding and cramping.
Other hormonal birth control methods that may lessen fibroid symptoms include progestin injections or progestin-releasing IUDs.
However synthetic progestins are not progesterone, and are listed as having a number of side effects.
Embolization may be offered for mild to moderate symptoms, and involves a catheter being guided to the uterine artery.
Tiny particles of plastic or gelatine are then released into the blood vessels that feed the fibroid, causing it to shrink over time.
Embolisation should not be an option for women wanting to get pregnant at some point after treatment.
Ultrasound is one way to destroy fibroids without risk of damaging the uterus. The treatment uses high-intensity ultrasound waves that kill the fibroid tissue.
Most women recover quickly from this procedure and can return to regular activities within 24 hours. The long-term effects are still being studied, and it is not recommended for women who want to become pregnant.
Surgery is the option is fibroids are large and not responding to other treatment.
So you may be offered a myomectomy to remove the largest fibroids and this is an option for women who want to still have children.
A hysterectomy is when the uterus is removed completely and used if there is a small chance that what was thought to be a fibroid could instead be a cancer called uterine sarcoma.
How to help yourself
There are several ways you can be proactive if concerned about fibroids.
First, because fibroids are associated with excess oestrogen check yourself for symptoms of oestrogen dominance and rebalance your hormones with progesterone.
Next, exercise may help prevent fibroids as in one study, women who exercised seven or more hours a week had significantly fewer fibroids than women who exercised less than two hours a week.
Obesity also is a risk factor for fibroids, and once again oestrogen dominance can be related to this in women. So exercising regularly can help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your fibroid risk.
Finally if you are not getting enough iron through diet alone you may develop anaemia, where the body has fewer red blood cells than normal. Symptoms include fatigue, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
Improve this by eating more iron-rich foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, leafy greens, legumes, and iron-fortified breads and cereals.
Iron supplements may be helpful but in tablet form can have side effects such as stomach upset and constipation So look for a liquid form instead, which will be gentler on the system. So look for a liquid form instead, which will be gentler on the system.
Finally some research has suggested that women with good levels of vitamin D from their diet are 32% less likely to develop fibroids.
Exercise and a good diet can all be helpful, but the key really is getting any oestrogen dominance under control.
If you are not sure what oestrogen dominance symptoms are, then this article will be helpful.
What Signs of Oestrogen Dominance Do You Have?