A uterine fibroid is an abnormal growth of muscle tissue in your uterus. They are far more common than most women realize. Although a fibroid is technically a tumor, they are almost always benign or noncancerous.
The highly skilled professionals at The Center for Women’s Health in Hampton and Newport News, Virginia, are experienced in treating uterine fibroids. Our team provides gynecology services to women who had no idea they had fibroids and others suffering from severe symptoms.
Symptoms related to fibroids
A uterine fibroid, also known as a leiomyoma or “myoma”, can appear as a single muscular tumor nodule or as part of a multinodular cluster. Fibroids vary in how they affect you and in size. Some are very small, about the size of a popcorn kernel, while others are large, as big as a grapefruit. In rare cases, a fibroid can be so large it pushes out your abdomen.
Large fibroids or clusters of fibroids are more likely to cause symptoms. Some of the symptoms you may experience include:
- Painful periods and severe cramping
- Abnormal bleeding between periods
- Abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding
- Anemia (low iron) from heavy periods
- Pelvic pain or feelings of pelvic fullness
- Unexplained chronic lower back pain
- Discomfort during sexual intercourse
Fibroids can also bring about symptoms related to your urinary tract. For example, you may need to urinate often, have trouble emptying your bladder, be constipated, or have ongoing vaginal discharge.
Uterine fibroids and period pain
Each month, your uterus sheds its inner lining during your menstrual period. As that happens, your body releases chemicals called prostaglandins which trigger contractions that help shed the uterine lining. These chemicals can cause pain, inflammation, and intense cramping made worse by fibroids.
The pain and cramping you feel during your period can be worse if you have fibroids because they increase the surface area of the uterine lining that must be shed. You may feel increased pelvic pressure, have a heavier blood flow with clots, or have severe cramps.
Self-care for monthly fibroid pain
You can do several different things that may help your fibroid-related period pain.
Over-the-counter medications can help reduce inflammation and ease your pain. Ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen may all be good choices when you first start feeling symptoms. Be sure to follow the instructions on the bottle, and start taking the medicine one or two days before you expect your period to start.
Go for a walk
Regular exercise is excellent for your overall health. It improves blood flow and triggers the release of endorphins, which are your body’s naturally produced painkillers. Even if you feel uncomfortable and don’t want to walk, it may help. Exercising regularly throughout the month can improve symptoms during your period.
Relax your muscles
Using a heating pad or a hot water bottle to soothe your abdomen may help. The warmth relaxes your muscles, stimulates blood flow, and may ease discomfort. A warm bath or shower may be equally relaxing and soothing.
Rest can help you take the edge off persistent period pain. Lying on your back with a pillow under your knees may ease the pressure, or you may find it comfortable to lay on your side with your knees pulled toward your chest.
Focusing on your breath can help you relax. Find a comfortable place, place one hand over your chest, the other over your navel, and inhale slowly, filling your lungs. Feel your chest and belly rise in the process, and hold each breath briefly before you let it out; imagine your pain drifting out of your body with each exhale.
Sometimes at-home care isn’t enough. If painful periods disrupt your life, medical intervention could be the right approach. Depending on your situation, we may suggest medication to control heavy bleeding or to shrink your fibroids. You may also need iron supplements if you’re anemic due to heavy bleeding.
In some cases, surgery to remove problematic fibroids is the best solution. Various surgeries can treat fibroids, and choosing the best approach depends on individual circumstances. Before making a recommendation, your provider discusses important factors to consider, such as your medical history and family planning goals.
Schedule a visit with The Center for Women’s Health to learn more about fibroids, how they are treated, and your treatment options.