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Help for Heavy Periods: When Fibroids are to Blame

By Guy Schropp, MD, FACOG, MBA December 12, 2019 Posted in: Women's Health

If your monthly period becomes unmanageable – requiring pads, tampons and frequent bathroom breaks -- don’t suffer in silence. Heavy, prolonged periods can be a sign of fibroids, the most common type of pelvic tumors in women. These muscular tumors are very rarely cancerous, but often have uncomfortable symptoms.

Besides Heavy Bleeding, Fibroids Can Cause:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Back pain
  • Frequent urination
  • Constipation
  • Painful intercourse

How Common are Fibroids?

An estimated 20 to 80 percent of women develop fibroids by age 50. You can have one or many fibroids and their size can range from a tiny apple seed to a sizeable grapefruit. They can grow in several locations – inside the uterine cavity, within the wall of the uterus and outside the uterus. It’s less common, but fibroids can also develop in the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus.

Several factors can influence your risk of developing fibroids. If your mother had it, your risk is about three times higher than average. Risk is two to three times greater in African American women, who tend to develop symptoms earlier. Starting your period at an early age (9 to 11.5) also increases your risk. Contraceptive use has not been found to affect fibroid risk. Having babies decreases risk of fibroid formation.

Some Other Factors Which Influence Fibroid Risks Are:

  • Being obese; risk is two to three times greater for very heavy women
  • Eating red meat and ham has been linked to higher risk.
  • Eating green vegetables can decrease risk.
  • Drinking alcohol may increase your risk.
  • Smoking decreases your risk, but is clearly not advised due to other health risks (lung disease, cancer).

What Causes Fibroids?

What causes fibroids in some women but not others is unknown. However, genetics are thought to play a role. We do know that estrogen influences fibroid development as they tend to grow during pregnancy and recede at menopause.

Symptoms Which Bring Women to the Doctor’s Office Include:

  • Heavy periods
  • Pressure
  • Pain related to the bulk of the fibroids
  • Infertility or obstetric issues

Diagnosis starts with a physical exam. Fibroids are often found during a routine pelvic exam. Your health care provider may perform an ultrasound of the uterus, sonography (diagnostic ultrasound) and/or hysteroscopy (scope from inside of the uterus). Once diagnosed, women have several treatment options, from medications to surgical procedures.

My message for women: don’t suffer with annoying or painful symptoms. See your health care provider for a thorough diagnosis and to learn your treatment options.

To learn more about treatment options for fibroids, please visit CHI Health Women's Health.

Guy Schropp, MD, FACOG, MBA
Guy Schropp, MD, FACOG, MBA

Dr. Guy Schropp is a doctor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at CHI Health. To learn more about Dr. Schropp, please visit his provider profile.

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