Uterine Fibroid, also called myoma, leiomyomata, fibromyoma, uterine polyps, uterine myoma, leioma, fibroma or hysteromyoma, are noncancerous tumors of the uterus. Uterine fibroids are also known as leiomyomata, myomas or uterine polyps. Uterine fibroids grow within the muscles of the uterus, on the outside of the uterus, hang in the uterine cavity or very rarely form within the cervix. They can range in size from microscopic to many pounds. Uterine fibroids form in the childbearing years of a woman’s life. There may be just one fibroid or many, with differing locations. Uterine fibroids are rarely a cause for concern, but when they become too large, or there are many present, they may become a problem.
Types of Uterine Fibroids
Submucosal: grow in the innermost layer of the uterus
Intramural: grow in the middle layer of the uterus
Subserous: grow in the outer wall of the uterus
Pedunculated: attached to a stalk either outside of the uterus or within the uterine cavity
Cervical: in the cervical tissue
Interligamentous: between the uterine broad ligaments
Causes of Uterine Fibroids
Though a large percentage of women suffer from uterine fibroids, doctors are actually unsure of what causes them to occur. What they do know however, is that estrogen and progesterone, both female hormones, contribute to the growth of the fibroids.
This means that the hormones will increase during the years a woman has a menstrual cycle, because it is during these years the body produces the highest levels of these hormones. Generally, after menopause occurs and your body produces lower levels of progesterone and estrogen, the fibroids will begin to shrink and any symptoms that have occurred from the hormones will subside.
Uterine fibroids are hormone dependent. They develop during the hormonally active years and decline in menopause. Fibroid tissue has a higher amount of estrogen and progesterone receptors. Fibroid tissue is hypersensitive to estrogen, but does not have the capacity to regulate estrogen response, this is why they can grow to become quite large. Other hormones play a role in the growth of uterine fibroids as well, including prolactin, parathyroid hormone, insulin growth factor, and pituitary growth hormone.
Fibroids are two to three times more likely to develop in African American women compared to any other ethnicity.
Factors that May Increase Fibroid Development
- Increased lifetime exposure to estrogen. This is due to early menarche, fewer pregnancies, increased follicular phase and/or obesity. Body fat produces and stores estrogen.
- Exposure to xenoestrogens such as plastics, pesticides, herbicides, synthetic hormones in both meat and dairy products, or hormone replacement therapy.
- Poor estrogen metabolism. Some women’s bodies have a harder time removing and metabolizing excess estrogen.
- Infection complications from IUD use
- Perineal talc use
- Anovulatory cycles
- Endometrial hyperplasia (common in women with PCOS)
Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids
While many women will never even know that they have uterine fibroids because the condition often exhibits no symptoms, there are some women that will experience certain effects from the fibroids presence. Symptoms of uterine fibroids include:
- A sensation of fullness or pressure in the abdominal area
- Excessive bleeding during menstruation
- Excessive length of menstruation
- Extreme cramping during menstruation
- Lower back pain
- Painful intercourse
- A frequent urge to urinate
Uterine Fibroids May Negatively Impact Conception and Pregnancy
Fibroids are thought to be the cause of infertility in 2%-10% of infertility cases. Reports have shown uterine fibroids may be responsible for the following fertility, conception and pregnancy problems:
- Interfere with implantation of the ovum
- May compress the fallopian tubes, preventing conception
- Cause anovulatory cycles
- Cause abnormal uterine blood flow, hindering movement of sperm to ova
- Cause miscarriage
- May cause intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR)
- May cause premature rupture of the membranes
- Contribute to retained placenta after birth
- Cause postpartum hemorrhage
- Cause abnormal labor
Not all women with uterine fibroids will experience these kinds of troubles and many go on to have healthy pregnancies even with uterine fibroids present. Because there are risks to your fertility and possibly pregnancy, it is best to work to reduce fibroid growth, prevent formation of new fibroids and to maintain healthy lifestyle choices to continue working to bring about the best possible uterine health.
Medical Treatment for Uterine Fibroids
In many cases, the effects of uterine fibroids are so minor that many woman use a general over-the-counter pain medicine to treat any cramping or pain associated with the fibroid tumors. Since the tumors can also cause excessive menstrual bleeding which can lead to anemia, an iron supplement is recommended if excessive bleeding is occurring.
In the medical world, the only successful treatment for fibroids is surgery. The two main types of surgery used for treating uterine fibroids are a myomectomy, which only removes the existing fibroids, and a hysterectomy, which removes the entire uterus.
A myomectomy can help to remove the existing tumors that you have, but it will not prevent the tumors from growing back (only lifestyle changes can help to balance the body and promote hormonal balance). However, this method of uterine fibroid removal is the best of the two surgery choices for those women that are still wanting to conceive a child.
This surgical procedure removes the uterus completely. With a hysterectomy, you can guarantee that the tumors will not grow back. Unfortunately, there are many other side effects that can occur from a hysterectomy including early menopause, an increased risk of osteoporosis and of course, the inability to become pregnant. Approximately 17% of hysterectomies performed in the United States are due to uterine fibroids.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization
Another newer procedure that is being used for treating uterine fibroids is uterine fibroid embolization. This method of treatment has proven effective at shrinking fibroids or destroying them completely, however it is not without side effects. This treatment should not be used by those women that are wanting to become pregnant, since it is known to throw the body into early menopause and can even cause infertility.
Uterine fibroids can be quite hard to treat naturally or through hormonal medications prescribed by doctors. If after trying either hormonal medications or natural therapies you continue to suffer from uterine fibroids, it may be time to seriously consider surgical options. Doctors nor natural healthcare practitioners have been able to find an exact solution to getting rid of uterine fibroids permanently. Even after surgery uterine fibroids may grow again, or new ones may form. This is why step 1 under our Natural Therapies guide below is extremely important. It is vital to reduce exposure to xenohormones and continue to eat well to keep estrogen levels in balance.