Uterine Fibroids: Five Things You Need to Know

29 August, 2020
The treatment for uterine fibroids varies according to their size. Surgical intervention could be necessary or just proper medication and periodic checkups.

According to the Spanish Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (SEGO), nearly 70% of women could develop uterine fibroids at some point in their lives. However, only 0.5% of these fibroids could become carcinogenic.

Uterine fibroids are also known as leiomyomas or fibromyomas and are the most common type of tumor in women. That’s why we decided to share some information about their symptoms, origins, and possible consequences.

Read more here: What Are Uterine Fibroids? Find Out With These 5 Important Facts

1. What are uterine fibroids? What causes them?

A lot of women complain about the same things: they lead a healthy life, they take care of their sexual health, they get regular gynecological checkups, and yet, without knowing why, they’re diagnosed with uterine fibroids.

A uterus with uterine fibroids.

So why does this happen? The truth is we currently still don’t know what exactly causes them. It’s suspected that genetics plays a part in their development, but we don’t know exactly how they appear and develop. Data from the U.S. National Library of Medicine suggest that genetics and hormones may play a role in their appearance.

  • The uterus has several layers. One of them is the myometrium.
  • Female hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, stimulate the growth of small, tiny lumps in the myometrium that could slowly transform into fibroids.
  • These fibroids could divide into subserosals when they’re located on the surface of the uterus, or intramural fibroids when they’re inserted within the uterine wall. Lastly, they could be submucosal fibroids when they’re located within the uterus.

Subserosal fibroids barely present any symptoms. But intramural and submucosal fibroids affect the endometrium and could even cause bleeding, pain, and, in the most extreme cases, infertility.

Improper blood flow to the uterus could cause uterine fibroids, which could thereby also produce intense pain and miscarriages.

2. Who is at the greatest risk of suffering from uterine fibroids?

An older woman looking concerned.

Doctors state that they generally appear between the ages of 35 and 55 and are most common between the ages of 45 and 55.

  • This type of benign tumor appears most commonly during the fertile period.
  • If your mother has had them, it’s very likely that you’ll develop uterine fibroids as well.
  • Your risk of suffering from them is greater if you’re overweight.
  • Women who have not given birth are at higher risk of developing fibroids.

3. Symptoms of uterine fibroids

You must keep in mind that nearly 30% of women don’t experience symptoms. The only sure way to detect uterine fibroids is through periodic gynecological checkups.

While most cases are asymptomatic, the Spanish Gynelogical Society explains that 25% of woman do present symptoms such as the following:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding.
  • Iron deficiency anemia.
  • Swelling and fatigue.
  • Weight gain.
  • Pain during intercourse.
  • Need to urinate more frequently.
  • Bleeding outside of menstruation.
  • Much longer menstrual periods.

4. What treatments exist for uterine fibroids?

The first thing you may think of when you’re diagnosed with one or more uterine fibroids is that you may need surgical intervention.

However, the article The Impact and Management of Fibroids for Fertility: an evidence-based approach point out that surgery isn’t always necessary. Smaller uterine fibroids can be treated with specific medications and periodic checkups.

If the fibroid is very large, or a small one doesn’t respond to medication, you’ll have no other option but to have it removed. You could undergo a myomectomy (fibroid extraction that doesn’t affect the uterus) or a hysterectomy, which is the partial or complete removal of the uterus. A lot of specialists advise undergoing medical treatment with ulipristal acetate, a progesterone moderator that noticeably reduces the size of uterine fibroids.

However, many specialists recommend using a medical treatment involving Ulipristal acetate (“Ella”). This is a progesterone modulator that may reduce the presence of these fibroids.

Another newer technique to treat fibroids is high-density ultrasound. This type of surgery has been gaining strength in comparison to traditional treatments. That’s because it has fewer side effects and is also less expensive.

5. Uterine fibroids and fertility

One of the most common doubts that women generally have when they’re diagnosed with a fibroid is whether or not they can get pregnant. The answer isn’t simple and depends on a variety of factors, including age. The experts from Current Obstetrics and Gynecology Report point out the following:

  • When tumors are large, they could cause fertility problems or pregnancy complications.
  • Women that undergo myomectomies (removal of fibroids without removing the uterus) can still get pregnant.
  • Fibroids could cause miscarriages, which is why it’s a good idea to plan your pregnancy and consult a gynecologist to know if pregnancy is possible and if you’re risk-free.
A pregnant woman sitting on grass.

When they’re bigger than 4 cm, they can cause gestation issues. The mother could experience premature birth, pelvic pain, and even placenta detachment.

Discover: 8 Symptoms Women Shouldn’t Ignore

Take care of your health and never miss your periodic checkups with your healthcare professional. They’ll always provide you with advice regarding these important topics.

  • Taylor, D. K., Holthouser, K., Segars, J. H., & Leppert, P. C. (2015). Recent scientific advances in leiomyoma (uterine fibroids) research facilitates better understanding and management. F1000Research, 4(F1000 Faculty Rev), 183. doi:10.12688/f1000research.6189.1
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4513689/
  • Tratamiento de los miomas uterinos mediante ultrasonidos de alta intensidadTreatment of uterine fibroids using high-intensity ultrasound (2013). Antoni Pessarrodona, Jordi Isern, Jordi Rodríguez, Elena Vallejo, Jordi Cassado.
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0025-7753(13)70049-6
  • Jacoby VL, et al. (2014). Use of medical, surgical and complementary treatments among women with fibroids [Abstract]. DOI:
    10.1016/j.ejogrb.2014.09.004
  • Uterine fibroids: Overview. (2017).
    ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072719/
  • Sociedad Española de Ginecología. Miomas uterinos. https://sego.es/mujeres/Miomas_uterinos.pdf
  • MedlinePlus. Miomas uterinos. https://medlineplus.gov/spanish/ency/article/000914.htm
  • Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2013 Dec 1. Published in final edited form as: Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2012 Dec; 39(4): 521–533. The Impact and Management of Fibroids for Fertility: an evidence-based approach. doi: 10.1016/j.ogc.2012.09.005
  • Curr Obstet Gynecol Rep. 2016; 5: 81–88. Published online 2016 Apr 25. Fibroids and Infertility. doi: 10.1007/s13669-016-0162-2