Uterine Fibroid Symptoms
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that grow within the uterus. The symptoms of uterine fibroids are similar to symptoms of other female reproductive conditions, therefore, fibroids can be overlooked until symptoms are debilitating.
Often, women do not ask questions about these symptoms and think what they are experiencing is normal. For example, chronic heavy menstrual bleeding is not normal just because it has been heavy for a long time. It is very important to keep communication open with your OB-GYN so an accurate diagnosis can be made as well as a plan for treatment and relief.
Whether uterine fibroids manifest any symptoms or not depends primarily on two factors. First and foremost, their location in the uterus. Submucosal fibroids can cause very significant bleeding symptoms even when very small. Intramural and subserosal fibroids typically won’t cause symptoms when small, but the chance of this increases with the second factor: size. Typically, there is no recommended treatment until they begin to cause noticeable symptoms.
Common Fibroid Symptoms
Heavy Menstrual Bleeding
Fibroids that are located close to the lining of the uterus can cause abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding and cause periods to last longer than usual. They can also cause pain due to the passage of clots through the cervix and in to the vagina and anemia caused by excessive blood loss.
Pelvic Pressure and Pain
Abdominal pain, pressure, and bloating are symptoms often associated with fibroids. This pain is most commonly felt all across the lower pelvic area. However, if there is a particularly large fibroid on one side of the pelvis, the pain may be felt more on that side.
Enlarged Abdomen and Uterus
Uterine fibroids can grow quite large and can cause the uterus to expand resulting in a protruding abdomen that resembles pregnancy. Adenomyosis can also cause enlargement of the uterus which may resemble a pregnancy. However, uterine enlargement enough to make a woman look pregnant is far more common in fibroids than in adenomyosis.
Increased Frequency Of Urination
Uterine fibroids located in the anterior uterus can exert pressure on the bladder causing frequent trips to the restroom, even during the night. These fibroids act like paperweights compressing the bladder and not allowing it to fill properly. This results in women having to urinate more frequently. This added pressure on the bladder also cause some women to leak urine.
Constipation And Bloating
The uterus is located in front of the distal end of the colon therefore, fibroids that grow on the back of the uterus can put pressure on the colon. This can cause constipation or painful bowel movements. In addition, women taking iron supplements, due to anemia caused by fibroids, often experience constipation and bloating (a known side effect of iron supplements).
Lower Back And Leg Pain
Fibroids that grow outside of the uterus can protrude and exert pressure on other organs causing painful symptoms. Fibroids growing on the back of the uterus on the outside can put pressure on spinal nerves to cause low back and buttock pain which can radiate down one or both legs, i.e. sciatica.
Discomfort Or Pain During Sex
Uterine fibroids can affect your sex life in a number of ways. One of the ways is to cause pain during intercourse. This is usually due to a fibroid or fibroids located near the cervix. There are “workarounds” to help alleviate some of the pain during intercourse (ex. positional changes), but the only way to eliminate this pain is by addressing the fibroids.
Fibroids can cause heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding resulting in an unhealthy amount of blood loss and anemia. Anemia can cause extreme fatigue, severe headaches, lightheadedness, and abnormal cravings for ice or chalk. If you are experiencing prolonged and heavy bleeding during periods, or between periods you may have or be at risk for anemia which should be discussed with your doctor.
Uterine fibroids growing inside or outside of the uterus can affect fertility. Fibroids can occupy space that would normally be reserved for a growing baby causing issues with implantation or even miscarriage. They can also change the shape of the cervix or cause “kinks” in the fallopian tubes affecting fertilization and conception.