Women living with uterine fibroids know that the condition comes with numerous challenges. From pelvic and lower back pain to frequent urination and bloating, there are several symptoms that women with the condition cite as having an impact on their lives. But painful, heavy periods are one of the most distinctive and disruptive fibroid symptoms that women mention, and it’s often the thing that brings women to the doctor before their diagnosis.
But because many women experience intense periods, even those who don’t have fibroids, you may be unsure of whether or not your menstrual symptoms are related to your condition. Should you consider an extremely heavy period a tell-tale sign that you have fibroids, or could it be caused by something else? And why exactly do fibroids increase the likelihood of having a heavy period?
We’re breaking down some of the most frequently asked questions about the links between uterine fibroids and heavy menstrual cycle, including the biology behind this connection, and what you can do to relieve your symptoms. Here’s what you need to know.
I have an extremely heavy period. Does that mean I have fibroids?
Uterine fibroids aren’t the cause of every woman’s heavy periods. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in five women in their reproductive years experience heavy menstrual bleeding, also known as menorrhagia. It’s important to note that prolonged and intense menstrual bleeding is not automatically indicative of the presence of fibroids.
But many women with fibroids do report having extremely heavy periods, and this is often one of the symptoms that women most often report before being diagnosed with the condition. Heavy periods are one of the most common symptoms experienced by women with uterine fibroids. According to researchers, some 30 to 50 percent of women with fibroids experience heavy menstrual bleeding. However, this is not the case for everyone.
The severity of menstrual periods can vary widely among women with fibroids, with some experiencing only mild symptoms. Others may have periods that are extremely heavy and long-lasting. In some rare cases, very heavy bleeding can lead to anaemia, a condition in which the body does not have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues.
The biology behind fibroids and heavy menstruation
In order to understand the connection between fibroids and intense menstrual cycles, let’s discuss the biology behind heavy periods. During a menstrual cycle, the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) thickens in preparation for pregnancy. If pregnancy does not occur, the endometrium sheds and is expelled from the body as menstrual bleeding. This process is regulated by hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone.
Find out more about heavy bleeding on your period here.
The reasons why fibroids cause heavy periods are not yet fully understood. However, it’s widely believed that the presence of fibroids in the uterus can lead to changes in the way the uterus contracts during menstruation, which can result in heavier bleeding. Fibroids can also cause the lining of the uterus to thicken, which may lead to heavy periods.
The size of the fibroids is also a major factor here. Larger fibroids can cause more pressure and distortion in the uterus, leading to heavier menstrual bleeding. The location of the fibroids is also believed to have a significant impact on the intensity of the period. Fibroids that are located near the lining of the uterus can cause more bleeding than those that are located further away. This is because the fibroids that are close to the lining can disrupt the blood vessels that supply the endometrium, triggering heavier and longer bleeding.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that fibroids are associated with increased levels of oestrogen and progesterone, which can contribute to heavy menstrual bleeding. This study also found that women with larger fibroids and those with fibroids located in the uterine cavity were more likely to experience heavy periods.
Will treating fibroids provide relief from heavy periods?
Yes, treating fibroids can help you experience less intense periods. There are several treatment options available to manage heavy bleeding menstrual bleeding. Generally speaking, hormonal therapies, such as birth control pills, hormonal IUDs, hormone injections, and oral medications can help regulate menstrual cycles and reduce episodes of excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding.
Oral progesterone can also help correct hormone imbalance and lead to lighter periods. Treatments that aim to shrink fibroids, such as GnRH agonist and GnRH antagonist therapies, can also reduce the size of the uterus and fibroids, which may lead to a reduction in heavy menstrual bleeding.
Women living with fibroids have numerous options at their disposal to reduce their heavy periods and improve their overall quality of life. While fibroids can be a serious challenge, modern medical solutions can help make living with the condition more comfortable and manageable.
The bottom line is that you don’t have to suffer through extremely intense menstrual cycles. There are treatments available to provide relief from heavy periods coupled with uterine fibroids. Talk to your doctor about the best treatment path for you.