Uterine fibroids are a common health condition that affects millions of women. But, despite their prevalence, many women may not realize they have uterine fibroids. Although 75 percent of women will likely be affected by uterine fibroids during their lifetime, only about 20 percent of those affected will experience fibroid symptoms.
“The majority of women who have uterine fibroids do not experience symptoms but, for those who do, these symptoms can be very painful and affect quality of life,” explains Anne Bussard, MD, OB/GYN with Main Line OB/GYN Associates at the Main Line Health Collegeville.
If you’ve been coping with chronic pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding, or bloating, and looking for an answer, it could be a sign of uterine fibroids. Below, Dr. Bussard explores several common symptoms of uterine fibroids.
Back, pelvic, and abdominal pain
Pain in any of these areas could be an indicator for a number of different health issues. Typically, in cases of uterine fibroids, this pain is caused by the size of the fibroid. When the fibroid is large, it presses against the lower back, pelvis, or abdomen and can make it difficult or uncomfortable to complete everyday activities like bending down or exercising.
The size of these fibroids and their location can also cause other symptoms like persistent bloating or discomfort during sex.
One of the hallmark symptoms of uterine fibroids is abnormal menstrual bleeding.
“Women who have particularly heavy or prolonged periods, or who have spotting between their periods, may be experiencing these symptoms due to uterine fibroids,” explains Dr. Bussard. “This is one of the most common symptoms. Often, abnormal bleeding is one of the symptoms that cause women to speak up because of how it affects their quality of life.”
If you’re experiencing abnormal bleeding, talk to your OB/GYN about your symptoms.
Changes in bathroom habits
Not eager to discuss your bathroom habits? Many women aren’t. But if you begin to experience symptoms like frequent urination, urinary leakage, painful urination, or constipation, it may be time to talk to your health care provider.
“If uterine fibroids are growing large enough or in the direction of your bladder, they can affect how frequently you urinate. In severe cases, if left untreated, this can lead to kidney damage, so it’s important to address these symptoms as soon as they occur,” says Dr. Bussard.
Although uterine fibroids are typically not cancerous and do not affect your health, they may affect your fertility. If you have uterine fibroids, you may have a more difficult time getting pregnant. And, if you do become pregnant, fibroids may cause difficulty during pregnancy, including premature labor, miscarriage, and placental abruption.
Most women who have fibroids will not be infertile, but if you're having trouble conceiving and notice additional fibroid symptoms, talk to your doctor about your concerns. A fertility specialist can help you assess whether or not fibroids are impacting your fertility, and if treatment is necessary.
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, talk to your OB/GYN. There are a variety of treatment options available for women with uterine fibroids, including medication and minimally invasive procedures. “Previously, hysterectomy was the only option for women, but now we have a number of treatment options available, and women can work with their physician to determine the right option for them,” says Dr. Bussard.
Main Line Health gynecologists provide expertise in a wide range of services, including contraceptive services, care during perimenopause, and preventative care in the post-menopausal years. Visit our website to learn more about our OB/GYN services.