Uterine fibroids affect millions of reproductive-aged women worldwide, but many aren’t familiar with the telltale signs of this condition.
From abdominal bloating to heavy periods and pelvic pain, it’s critical to understand UF in order to pursue a diagnosis and receive treatment.
This blog breaks down frequently early-stage symptoms of uterine fibroids, so you can recognize when it’s time to seek medical attention and reach out to a healthcare professional.
What are the most common early-stage fibroid symptoms?
There are a number of that are frequently reported by women living with the condition.
One of the most common early-stage symptoms of uterine fibroids is menstrual irregularities. Women with fibroids may notice changes in their menstrual cycle, such as heavier or prolonged periods, also known as menorrhagia. Some women may additionally or alternatively experience irregular bleeding between periods.
Pelvic pressure and pain are additional telltale signs of early-stage fibroids. Women may feel a constant, dull ache in the lower abdomen or pelvis. This discomfort can range from mild to severe and may worsen during menstruation or sexual intercourse. The pain is often described as a feeling of fullness/bulkiness or pressure in the pelvic area.
Increased urinary frequency
Fibroids can press against the bladder, leading to increased urinary frequency. This may in turn lead women to feel themselves having the need to urinate more frequently than usual, even if their bladder isn’t full. This symptom can be particularly bothersome, as it can disrupt daily routines and sleep patterns.
Constipation and bloating
Fibroids can also exert pressure on the rectum, causing constipation and bloating. Many women with the condition report abdominal bloating and discomfort, also known as fibroid belly, in which their stomachs appear distended and swollen. They may also experience difficulty in passing stools.
The emotional and psychological impact of early-stage symptoms
Beyond the physical symptoms, . The unpredictability of heavy bleeding, pelvic pain, and the overall disruption of daily life can lead to stress, anxiety, and even depression.
Women may feel overwhelmed by the constant discomfort and the uncertainty of when symptoms will strike, and research has found a correlation between UF and depression. This emotional toll can put extreme strain on personal relationships and hinder a woman’s overall mental health.
It’s critical for women experiencing UF symptoms to reach out to both medical professionals for diagnosis and a treatment plan, along with a support network of family and friends to help care for their emotional wellbeing.
The importance of early detection
Untreated UF can lead to a range of complications and health risks, including fibroids growing to larger sizes and multiplying. Large, untreated fibroids may come with heightened unpleasant physical symptoms of bloating, pelvic pressure and pain, and exacerbated periods.
Depending on their size and location, fibroids can interfere with the normal functioning of the uterus, potentially hindering fertility. Even if pregnancy occurs, research literature suggests that fibroids can increase the risk of complications such as . The presence of fibroids can also lead to discomfort and pain during pregnancy.
Early intervention is crucial in managing uterine fibroids and avoiding the associated risks. Timely diagnosis and treatment can help alleviate symptoms and prevent them from worsening.
Non-surgical treatments like medication or minimally invasive procedures can be highly effective in
Repeated surgeries, however, come with their own potential risk of causing fertility issues and increased risk of miscarriage.
When should you see a doctor?
Understanding the red flags associated with UF can help you know if it’s time to seek out a diagnosis from a medical professional.
One of the most prominent red flags of uterine fibroids is excessive menstrual bleeding. If you find that your periods are significantly heavier or longer than usual, causing you to soak through sanitary products rapidly, it’s time to see a doctor. Heavy bleeding can lead to anaemia and should not be ignored.
Severe pelvic pain
Persistent pelvic pain, often described as a dull ache or pressure, is another warning sign. This discomfort may intensify during menstruation or sexual intercourse, interfering with your daily life.
Rapidly growing abdomen/belly bloat
Some women with uterine fibroids notice their abdomen rapidly increasing in size, resembling bloating or pregnancy. If your belly seems to be expanding despite no changes in your diet or exercise routine, consult a healthcare provider.
Difficulty urinating or moving bowels
Fibroids can press against the bladder or rectum, leading to increased urinary frequency, difficulty emptying the bladder, constipation, or general discomfort in the lower abdomen. These symptoms should not be dismissed.
When to seek immediate, urgent medical attention
It’s critical to receive emergency medical care if you experience any of the following symptoms:
Severe, uncontrolled bleeding
If you are soaking through multiple sanitary products in an hour or if bleeding is accompanied by dizziness or fainting, it’s essential to go to the emergency room.
Sudden, severe pelvic pain
If you encounter excruciating, unbearable pelvic pain, particularly if it comes on suddenly, do not delay seeking medical help.
Why seeing a gynaecologist regularly is key
Preventive healthcare is vital in managing uterine fibroids. Regular gynaecological check-ups can help detect fibroids in their early stages or monitor their growth if they are already known to be present.
Women should aim for an annual visit to their gynaecologist, even if they are not experiencing symptoms. This proactive approach allows healthcare professionals to identify and address any concerning changes promptly.
How do doctors diagnose fibroids?
To assess and diagnose uterine fibroids, doctors may employ several diagnostic tools:
This is often the initial diagnostic tool used to visualize the uterus and any fibroids within it. A transvaginal or abdominal ultrasound can provide valuable information about the size, location, and number of fibroids.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
In cases where more detailed information is needed, an MRI can provide a clearer view of the uterus and fibroids. MRI can help determine the type of fibroids and guide treatment decisions.
For fibroids that are suspected to be within the uterine cavity, a hysteroscopy may be performed. This involves inserting a thin, lighted instrument into the uterus to directly visualize and sometimes remove the fibroids.
While there is no specific blood test to diagnose fibroids, a complete blood count (CBC) may be ordered to assess for anaemia, which can be caused by heavy bleeding associated with fibroids.
Reclaiming control over your body and health
Recognizing when to see a doctor for uterine fibroids is not just a matter of protecting your physical wellbeing; it’s a proactive step towards safeguarding your reproductive health and overall quality of life. Your gynaecologist plays a pivotal role in this journey, as they possess the expertise and diagnostic tools needed for accurate assessment.
The importance of early detection of fibroids, often through routine gynaecological check-ups, cannot be stressed enough. Empower yourself with knowledge and awareness. If you suspect fibroids or are experiencing any warning signs, please do not hesitate to seek a medical consultation.
Remember, your gynaecologist is your ally in this endeavour, equipped to guide you through diagnosis and treatment options. Be proactive about your reproductive health, because when it comes to fibroids, early detection truly is the key to a healthier, happier future.