Living with uterine fibroids
Uterine fibroids are tumors that grow in a woman's womb (uterus). These growths are not cancerous.
No one knows exactly what causes fibroids.
You may have seen your health care provider for uterine fibroids. They can cause:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding and long periods
- Bleeding between periods
- Painful periods
- An urge to urinate more often
- Feeling fullness or pressure in your lower belly
- Pain during intercourse
Many women with fibroids have no symptoms. If you have symptoms, you may receive medicines or sometimes surgery. There are also certain things you can do to help relieve fibroid pain.
Leiomyoma - living with fibroids; Fibromyoma - living with fibroids; Myoma - living with fibroids; Vaginal bleeding - living with fibroids; Uterine bleeding - living with fibroids; Pelvic pain - living with fibroids
Medicines to Treat Uterine Fibroids
Your provider may prescribe different types of hormone therapy to help control extra bleeding. This may include birth control pills or injections. Be sure to follow provider's directions for taking these medicines. DO NOT stop taking them without talking to your provider first. Be sure to tell your provider about any side effects you have.
Over-the-counter pain relievers can reduce the pain of uterine fibroids. These include:
- Ibuprofen (Advil)
- Naproxen (Aleve)
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
To help ease painful periods, try starting these medicines 1 to 2 days before your period begins.
You may be receiving hormone therapy to prevent the endometriosis from becoming worse. Ask your doctor about side effects, including:
- Birth control pills to help with heavy periods.
- Intrauterine devices (IUDs) that release hormones to help reduce heavy bleeding and pain.
- Medicines that cause a menopause-like state. Side effects include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and mood changes.
Iron supplements may be prescribed to prevent or treat anemia due to heavy periods. Constipation and diarrhea are very common with these supplements. If constipation becomes a problem, take a stool softener such as docusate sodium (Colace).
Learning how to manage your symptoms can make it easier to live with fibroids.
Apply a hot water bottle or heating pad on your lower stomach. This can get blood flowing and relax your muscles. Warm baths also may help relieve pain.
Lie down and rest. Place a pillow under your knees when lying on your back. If you prefer to lie on your side, pull your knees up toward your chest. These positions help take the pressure off your back.
Get regular exercise. Exercise helps improve blood flow. It also triggers your body's natural painkillers, called endorphins.
Eat a balanced, healthy diet. Maintaining a healthy weight will help improve your overall health. Eating plenty of fiber can help keep you regular so you do not have to strain during bowel movements.
Techniques to relax and help relieve pain include:
- Muscle relaxation
- Deep breathing
Some women find that acupuncture helps ease painful periods.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your provider if you have:
- Heavy bleeding
- Increased cramping
- Bleeding between periods
- Fullness or heaviness in your lower belly area
If self-care for pain does not help, talk with your provider about other treatment options.
Dolan MS, Hill C, Valea FA. Benign gynecologic lesions: vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, oviduct, ovary, ultrasound imaging of pelvic structures. In: Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Lentz GM, Valea FA, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 18.
Moravek MB, Bulun SE. Uterine fibroids. In: Jameson JL, De Groot LJ, de Krester DM, et al, eds. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 131.
Reviewed By: John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.