Uterine Fibroids

What is Uterine Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids (leiomyoma) develop in the uterine walls, the uterine cavity and outside of the uterus. Most are benign, but they can range from tiny and undetectable to softball size.

They typically appear during the childbearing years in as many as 80% of women, but they most often occur in those who are middle-aged. A women with large fibroids may appear to be pregnant. The cause is unclear, but researchers have concluded that it is hereditary and/or hormonal. Their size increases during pregnancy and decreases after menopause.

Other risks may include:

  • Obesity
  • Birth control pills
  • African American ethnicity
  • Early menstruation
  • Consumption of large quantities of beef and pork
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Vitamin D deficiency

What are the Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids?

Many women with uterine fibroids do not realize they have them because the vast majority do not have symptoms.

Those who do have symptoms may experience:

  • Pain
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Painful menstruation
  • Prolonged menstrual periods
  • Full feeling in the pelvis
  • Bladder pressure or rectal pressure
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Swollen lower abdomen
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Problems draining the bladder
  • Lumbar pain
  • Leg pain
  • Constipation
  • Pregnancy difficulties
  • Infertility (rare)

Uterine Fibroids Causes

The exact reason for Uterine Fibroids isn’t known exactly, but there are risk factors that point towards a cause. Most women will get fibroids by the time they’re 50 and they tend to get smaller after menopause. The reason for this is believed to be because of the reduction in hormones produced by the female body. One of the assumed causes of fibroids is the production of estrogen and progesterone, which are needed to regenerate the lining of the uterus.

If you have relatives who have fibroids the odds of you getting them increase. There is a genetic correlation between who gets fibroids and who doesn’t. Also, when women fall pregnant, fibroids will sometimes develop because of the increase in hormone production. Fibroids that develop during this time will sometimes shrink after pregnancy.

How is a Uterine Fibroids Treated?

The treatment of uterine fibroids depends on the symptoms, size, and location, and if pregnancy is a consideration. Uterine fibroids do not reduce fertility, but they can cause serious pregnancy and delivery complications.

Treatments may include:

  • Medication that stops the development of progesterone and estrogen
  • Medicated (progestin) intrauterine device
  • Medication to reduce heavy menstrual flow
  • Pain medication
  • Noninvasive MRI soundwave fibroid removal
  • Other minimally invasive options
  • Traditional surgical removal of fibroids
  • Uterine lining ablation
  • Hysterectomy

Uterine Fibroids Prevention

There are no known ways to prevent getting uterine fibroids. The recommendations to prevent them occurring is to eat healthily and maintain a healthy weight. The only way to keep fibroids from coming back is to perform a hysterectomy to remove the entire uterus. If this is not an option for you, taking steps to ease your menstrual pain is the proven option.

Some recommendations for this is to use painkillers to help with the cramps, apply heat, and exercise. Heat and exercise help by increasing blood flow which may reduce pain. Some supplements and essential oils are supposed to help with fibroids. Such supplements are Vitex and Milk Thistle to name a few. T

He essential oils, Thyme, Clary Sage, and Frankincense are reputed to help with fibroids too. All of these options will impact your hormone levels, which may be why they work for some people. If this is a course you’re interested in, please do so under the care of a doctor.

Resources
Last Reviewed:
October 11, 2016
Last Updated:
September 10, 2017