Mother and Baby

Fertility Health A-Z: Fibroids

Around 40% of women of reproductive age have fibroids growing in or around their womb at some point – many without realising, but they can affect fertility

What is it?

Fibroids are growths that are found in or around the womb. One thing that’s clear is that they’re not cancerous and can vary quite a lot in size. Many women never get any symptoms and do not realise they have them.

It’s not known exactly why they happen, but their growth is linked to the action of oestrogen.

Because oestrogen is a reproductive hormone produced by the ovaries, fibroids usually develop between the ages of 16 and 50 and can shrink after menopause, when levels of reproductive hormones drop. They’re not dangerous in themselves, but may need treatment if they start to cause problems and, in some cases, they can have an impact on fertility.

What are the symptoms?

Around one in three women with fibroids develop symptoms, which can include pain and heavy bleeding.

Depending on their size and where they are, they can also press on the bladder and intestine, making you need the toilet a lot. You might also find sex painful.

What can you do?

It’s not always necessary to treat fibroids, but if the symptoms were becoming a problem, doctors would offer medication. This can range from anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, the contraceptive Pill or a device called an LNG-IUS, which is similar to the coil and releases progestogen to help to lessen bleeding.

It’s not always necessary to treat fibroids, but if the symptoms were becoming a problem, doctors would offer medication

Some women, however, may need surgery and there are several procedures that are available.

Dr Yakoub Khalaf, a consultant in reproductive medicine at Guy’s Hospital in London, says some women may only find out they have fibroids when they have an ultrasound scan to find out why they’ve been struggling to get pregnant or for some other reason.

‘This is something we treat quite often and, if there is no other cause for difficulty in conceiving, the results can be great,’ he says.

See your GP…

If you have very heavy or painful periods or pain in your lower abdomen, frequently need the toilet or find sex painful.

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