If you are struggling with painful, heavy periods, there are a number of conditions that could be at play - and fibroids are one of them. Here we’ll explain exactly what fibroids are, how to find out if you have them and natural ways that you can help manage the symptoms.
- Fibroids are more common than you may think - 2 out of 3 people with a uterus will develop them at some point.
- Some people have no symptoms whereas for others they can cause painful, heavy periods and other health complications.
- Fibroids can often be treated with medication or through surgery - but there are also lifestyle changes you can make that will help you manage symptoms.
What are fibroids?
Fibroids - sometimes known as uterine myomas or leiomyomas - are non-cancerous growths that grow anywhere in or around your uterus. These growths are made up of muscle and tissue and can vary greatly in size. Some can be so small they are hard to detect with the human eye and some can grow to the size of a melon!
There are four different types of fibroids:
Intramural Fibroids - These develop in the muscular wall of the womb and are the most common type of fibroid.
Submucosal Fibroids - These fibroids grow develop beneath the women’s inner lining and grow into the womb space itself
Subserosal Fibroids - These are fibroids that grow outside of the wall of the womb and into the pelvic region. These are the fibroids that tend to get very large.
Pedunculated Fibroids - These are technically Submucosal or Subserosal Fibroids but they are attached to the womb with a small string or stalk of tissue.
What causes fibroids?
As with many reproductive health conditions, there is still a lack of research and a lot of mystery surrounding fibroids and what triggers them. The cause of fibroids is still largely unknown, but similar to endometriosis and adenomyosis it’s thought to be connected to oestrogen.
Fibroids tend to develop during our reproductive years (from puberty to menopause) when oestrogen levels are naturally at their highest. Often they will start to shrink as we enter menopause and our oestrogen levels decline. It’s thought that women who have high levels of oestrogen (oestrogen dominance) have a higher risk of developing fibroids. Some research also indicates that taking contraceptives that contain oestrogen might also increase your chances of developing fibroids.
Up to 70% of people with a womb will develop fibroids at some point in their life
Who can develop fibroids?
Fibroids are more common than you may think and if you have a uterus, there is a chance you will develop them at some point in your life. However, there are certain groups who are more at risk.
- Fibroids are most likely to develop between the ages of 30 and 50
- People with Afro-Caribbean heritage are more at risk of developing fibroids
- People who haven’t been pregnant and given birth are more likely to develop fibroids
- Being overweight also seems to increase your risk of developing the condition - this is likely because being overweight increases oestrogen levels.
- There may be some connection between people who have endometriosis and adenomyosis and those who develop fibroids - as all of these conditions are oestrogen dependent
Symptoms of Fibroids
Because fibroids can vary so dramatically in size and circumstance, there is a broad spectrum of symptoms and how severe they are. Some people will experience no symptoms at all and will go through life not even knowing they have fibroids!
However, for others, the condition can have a serious effect on their quality of life.
Some of the symptoms include:
- Heavy Periods
- Painful periods
- Periods That Last Longer Than A Week
- Pelvic and Abdominal Pain
- Issues with Constipation
- Frequent Need To Urinate
- Pain during and After Sex
Large fibroids can also sometimes cause issues with fertility and complications during pregnancy - also this is pretty rare.
Getting diagnosed with fibroids
As fibroids are often asymptomatic (show no symptoms) it can be hard to get them diagnosed - and if they aren't causing you any pain or problems, there is no need to see a doctor.
However, if you are experiencing painful, heavy periods or any of the other symptoms, you should always speak to your GP. If your GP thinks you may have fibroids they can refer you for an ultrasound scan where they will be able to see if there are any growths to be concerned about.
If they want to take a closer look they may perform a hysteroscopy or a laparoscopy, where a camera is inserted into the womb either through the vagina (hysteroscopy) or via a small incision (laparoscopy).
Is there a cure for fibroids?
If you aren’t experiencing symptoms, there is no need to treat fibroids. Often they will shrink of their own accord as you get older and your oestrogen levels get lower.
For those experiencing painful symptoms, there are a few routes of treatment. Usually, the first port of call will be to try medication that will slow down the growth of your uterine lining - this can help to combat painful, heavy periods. A lot of these medications will include a hormonal element - often increased progesterone. Some medicines can help shrink the fibroids -such as Gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogues (GnRHas) - which work by slowing down the production of oestrogen. However, some people find that the side effects of hormonal treatment outweigh the benefits - so it’s not right for everyone.
If this does not work - or if the fibroids are huge - then surgery may be suggested. The type of surgery that will be available to you will depend on the size of the fibroid and where they are growing. In some extreme cases, a complete hysterectomy might be recommended.
Whether you would prefer to manage your fibroid symptoms naturally - or want to support your chosen treatment route - lifestyle changes can help you lead a happier, healthier life with fibroids
Here are some things to consider:
Drinking alcohol can increase your risk of inflammation and impact your hormone levels, which can increase your risk of developing fibroids and also impact the severity of symptoms. One study found that women who drank one or more beers a day increased their risk of developing fibroids by more than 50 per cent. So try to cut back if you’re aware your alcohol consumption could be impacting your symptoms.
Avoid Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals
If you are concerned about fibroids you want to try and balance your oestrogen levels as much as possible. Many chemicals found in common household items - like fragrances, cleaners, and plastics - can disrupt your oestrogen levels. Try to avoid them where you can and opt for natural, plastic and chemical-free products in your home.
Some research indicates that getting enough Vitamin D may reduce your risk of developing fibroids by around 32%. Sunshine is a great source of vitamin D so make sure you are getting out in nature as much as possible. You can also support your Vitamin D levels through foods like egg yolks and cod liver oil - and you can also take supplements.
Natural Pain Relief
If you are struggling with pain related to fibroids, the Myoovi kit can help. This fast acting and most natural form of pain sends electrical pulses into the affected areas, blocking pain signals from reaching the brain. WHilst Myoovi may not be able to cure fibroids, it can certainly help you reduce your pain and improve your quality of life!