Don’t put up with painful fibroids

Have you experienced very heavy periods, pain, a bloated stomach or bladder problems? Then you may have uterine fibroids. While these growths do not cause problems for many women, for others they result in debilitating symptoms and even distress and embarrassment.

Unfortunately, many women put up with these symptoms, blaming them on painful periods that they can do nothing about. However, if you think you might have fibroids, seeking the advice of a specialist will give you an accurate diagnosis, peace of mind, and help identify the best treatment approaches for your individual case.

Fibroids are very common, affecting around one in three women aged 30 to 50. You may not realise you have them as often they do not cause symptoms. Sometimes they are diagnosed during a routine gynaecological examination, test or scan.

Fibroids are non-cancerous. In many cases, they cause no problems at all and eventually shrink, without the need for treatment, during the menopause when levels of reproductive hormones drop.

However, for some women they can cause unpleasant symptoms and affect quality of life. In extreme cases, fibroids can become so large that they cause pain, heavy periods and may even affect fertility.

What are fibroids?

Fibroids are abnormal growths that develop in or on the muscle layers of your womb. The size, shape and location of fibroids can vary greatly. Fibroids can remain very small or suddenly grow rapidly or grow over many years, and you may have just one or numerous fibroids in your womb.

Fibroids appear to occur more often in very overweight or obese women because this increases levels of the hormone estrogen in the body which makes it easier for fibroids to grow. They also seem to be more common in women of Afro-Caribbean descent and women with a family history of fibroids.

Having children seems to lower your risk of fibroids and the risk decreases with the more children you have.

What are the potential symptoms of having fibroids?

Fibroids can vary in size from the size of a pea to being as large as a grapefruit. While not a problem for many women, some women may experience unpleasant symptoms such as heavy, prolonged and painful periods, pelvic pain, a swollen abdomen, bladder problems, constipation, urinary tract infections and lower back pain. They can also cause embarrassment and distress to some women who suffer very heavy periods or a bloated stomach.

It is possible that fibroids could affect your fertility as, depending on the location of these growths, they can change the size and shape of your womb and potentially disrupt implantation and embryo growth. Research is ongoing: some studies have found that fibroids could affect the outcome of IVF fertility treatment while others suggest they do not increase miscarriage risk.

Are there any natural ways to prevent or control fibroids?

As fibroids are associated with high levels of body fat, taking up regular exercise and keeping to a healthy weight for your build and height will help.

A study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggested a link between fibroids and high blood pressure so reducing your blood pressure could help with fibroids as well as other health problems. Losing weight, taking up regular exercise, quitting smoking, eating healthily and reducing salt in your diet will lower blood pressure.

How can you control fibroids and what is the best way to treat them?

Fibroids often shrink naturally as estrogen levels drop with the menopause. However, if you suffer debilitating symptoms it is important to seek a consultation with a women’s health professional for advice on appropriate treatments, which range from taking medication to undergoing a procedure to remove the fibroids.

Depending on the size and location of the fibroids, your symptoms and your stage of life, there will be a treatment that is most suitable and your women’s health professional will help you choose the best approach for you.

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