The symptoms that women experience when they have fibroids depend on a few things. These include the number of tumours that are present, the size of the tumours, and where they are located. Typically, larger fibroids are more likely to cause heavy bleeding, and fibroids that develop inside the uterus are more likely to cause heavy bleeding than those that grow within the muscle layer.
If a woman has only one or two fibroids, or the tumours remain small, she may not have any symptoms at all. When there are several fibroids, or one or more fibroids grows very large, the symptoms can be very painful and discomforting.
What Kinds of Symptoms can Fibroids Cause?
- Heavier bleeding during periods;
- More painful periods;
- Periods that last longer than normal;
- Bleeding between periods, often with blood clots;
- Pain in the legs, lower back and/or pelvic region, during and/or between periods;
- Increased frequency of urination, and/or urinary incontinence, or difficulty urinating;
- Pain during sexual intercourse;
- A feeling of fullness or pressure in the lower abdominal region;
- Swelling in the abdominal region.
As well as these physical symptoms, when bleeding is very heavy, or occurs frequently between periods, a woman may develop iron-deficiency anaemia as a result of sustained blood loss. Treatment for this kind of anaemia may include iron injections or blood transfusions depending on how severe the anaemia is. When the fibroids are successfully treated and the heavy bleeding is resolved, normal blood iron levels will establish themselves over time.
How Symptoms are Influenced by Hormonal Changes
High levels of oestrogen typically cause fibroids to grow more rapidly, and this in turn makes the symptoms of fibroids more severe. Because of this, certain kinds of hormonal changes can have a strong influence on the kinds of fibroid symptoms a women experiences.
For example, if a woman has fibroids and becomes pregnant, the increase in oestrogen may cause the fibroids to grow more rapidly than normal. This may increase pain and other symptoms, and in some cases may potentially jeopardise the health of the pregnancy. Because of this, women with fibroids should be monitored closely when they become pregnant, and any changes in symptoms should be checked promptly.
Women who are going through menopause may find that their fibroid symptoms reduce, or that they have no symptoms at all. This is because menopause leads to a sharp drop in oestrogen levels, which typically shrinks fibroids and leads to a marked lessening of symptoms.
When Should You See Your Doctor ?
Sometimes it can be difficult to know when pelvic pain and other symptoms are abnormal, especially when these symptoms increase in severity slowly over time. In general, symptoms such as prolonged pelvic pain, menstrual bleeding that is heavier than usual, or bleeding that occurs between periods, are symptoms that should be checked by your doctor. In addition, see your doctor if you experience any urinary incontinence, or problems with emptying your bladder.
If you have any severe bleeding, or sudden and sharp pelvic pain, see your doctor or visit an emergency clinic the same day.