Health Information

Living with uterine fibroids

Living with uterine fibroids

Description

Uterine fibroids are tumors that grow in a woman's womb (uterus). These growths are not cancerous.

No one knows exactly what causes fibroids.

You may have seen your doctor for uterine fibroids. They can cause:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding and long periods
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Painful periods
  • An urge to urinate more often
  • Feeling fullness or pressure in your lower belly
  • Pain during intercourse

Many women with fibroids have no symptoms. If you have symptoms, you may receive medicines or sometimes surgery. There are also certain things you can do to help relieve fibroid pain.

Medicines to treat uterine fibroids

Your doctor may prescribe different types of hormone therapy to help control extra bleeding. This may include birth control pills or injections. Be sure to follow your doctor's directions for taking these medicines. Do not stop taking them without talking to your doctor first. Be sure to tell your doctor about any side effects you have.

Over-the-counter pain relievers can reduce the pain of uterine fibroids. These include:

  • Ibuprofen (Advil)
  • Naproxen (Aleve)
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

To help ease painful periods, try starting these medicines 1 to 2 days before your period begins.

Self-care

Learning how to manage your symptoms can make it easier to live with fibroids.

Apply a hot water bottle or heating pad on your lower stomach. This can get blood flowing and relax your muscles. Warm baths also may help relieve pain.

Lie down and rest. Place a pillow under your knees when lying on your back. If you prefer to lie on your side, pull your knees up toward your chest. These positions help take the pressure off your back.

Get regular exercise. Exercise helps improve blood flow. It also triggers your body's natural painkillers, called endorphins.

Eat a balanced, healthy diet. Maintaining a healthy weight will help improve your overall health. Eating plenty of fiber can help keep you regular so you don't have to strain during bowel movements.

Techniques to relax and help relieve pain include:

  • Muscle relaxation
  • Deep breathing
  • Visualization
  • Biofeedback
  • Yoga

Some women find that acupuncture helps ease painful periods.

When to call the doctor

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Heavy bleeding
  • Increased cramping
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Fullness or heaviness in your lower belly area

If self-care for pain doesn't help, talk with your doctor about other treatment options.

References

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG practice bulletin. Alternatives to hysterectomy in the management of leiomyomas. Obstet Gynecol. 2008;112:387-400.

Borkan J. Uterine fibroids. In: Ferri F. Ferri's Clinical Advisor. 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2014.

Katz VL. Benign gynecologic lesions: Vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, oviduct, ovary. In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 18.

Smith CA, Zhu X, He L, Song J. Acupuncture for dysmenorrhoea. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2011. Issue 1.

Van Voorhis B. A 41-year-old woman with menorrhagia, anemia, and fibroids: review of treatment of uterine fibroids. JAMA. 2009;301:82-93.

Vickers AJ, Cronin AM, Maschino AC, et al. Acupuncture for chronic pain: individual patient data meta-analysis. Archives of Internal Medicine. September 10, 2012.


Review Date: 3/18/2014
Reviewed By: Irina Burd, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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