Do you have Fibroids? Here is what to expect during peri/menopause:
My name is Natasha and I'm a team member here at MenoLabs. I’ve had fibroids and, although I am not in peri/menopause yet, I wonder how my fibroids might affect my peri/menopause experience.
My fibroid story:
Three years ago, I was having a lot of health issues that no one could figure out. I had test after test done, and after having an ultrasound, finally found out that I had small polyps and small fibroids in my uterus. I was advised to remove them, knowing they might still come back. Thankfully so far, I have been ok. But prior to this, I didn’t know that my mom and my cousin had larger fibroids that had to be removed, and they both opted to get a hysterectomy. My doctors highly recommended that I not have a hysterectomy, and that I wait and see how I did after the removal of the polyps and fibroids. They also recommended that I start to use an IUD. I say this to remind everyone how important it is to know your family medical history! I have always been active and eat pretty well, so knowing my family history of fibroids, I wonder if my genetics brought me to this.
What are fibroids?
Mayo Clinic defines uterine fibroids as “non cancerous growths of the uterus that often appear during childbearing years.” Mayo Clinic advises that fibroids don’t usually become uterine cancer. But when fibroids get large (around the size of a watermelon), they can expand the uterus to reach the rib cage which can be very uncomfortable. In some cases, fibroids are manageable and may even go away. In other cases, the fibroids need to be removed surgically because they are very large, visibly noticeable, and may even be uncomfortable. Not so fun fact: Fibroids are the primary reason for hysterectomies in the United States.
What causes fibroids?Cleveland Clinic shares that there is no known cause of uterine fibroids. Unfortunately, we still don’t know why they develop, but we do know there are some factors that might increase the risk of developing fibroids, including:
- Family history.
- Hormones: Mayo Clinic states that both estrogen and progesterone promote fibroid growth.
- African American women have a two to three times higher risk of fibroids compared to white women. Black women have fibroids at younger ages and are prone to larger fibroids and worse symptoms.
- A 2014 Review of Studies published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology links low vitamin D levels to an increased risk of fibroids in Black Women.
- The number of children you have had can impact your chances of developing fibroids. **If you have more children you have a lower risk of developing fibroids.
- Another study found that women who have not had children have more experiences with fibroids.
- Obesity can be a factor with fibroids, as it may make it more difficult for the doctor to detect the fibroids.
- Starting your period at a young age could be a factor in developing fibroids.
- High blood pressure.
- High levels of stress.
How may my fibroids affect me during peri/menopause?
Some women get symptoms when they have fibroids and others don’t. There have been no studies to show why this happens. Research suggests that fibroids in black women are less likely to regress after menopause. Sometimes fibroids can shrink or disappear during peri/menopause. Here are some symptoms to be aware of:
- Heavy or prolonged periods
- Anemia (low red blood count due to heavy bleeding)
- Passage of blood clots during period
- Menstrual cramps/pelvic pain
- Painful intercourse
- Interference with physical activity
- Interference with relationships
- Missed days of work
- Frequent urination
- Chronic vaginal discharge
- Can make your stomach look pregnant
What can I do to make the experience easier?Although there is not much you can do to prevent fibroids, here are few things to keep in mind:
- Try drinking less alcohol - especially beer.
- Try eating less red meat and more green vegetables and citrus fruits.
- Exercise and diet are always beneficial when trying to help prevent health issues, including fibroids.
What is the treatment for fibroids?
Treatment is a case-by-case situation, since every fibroid experience is different. In cases where no symptoms are being experienced and the fibroids are very small, the doctor may opt to wait on surgery while they monitor the growth of the fibroids. But if there are symptoms like anemia, or severe pain, the doctor might recommend one of the following treatments:
- Pain medications like ibuprofen to help relieve pain caused by the fibroids.
- Iron supplements to help with the anemia from heavy bleeding.
- Birth control can be used to help with the heavy bleeding. All forms of birth control can work for this, depending on what you prefer.
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists are used to shrink fibroids. But you will have to keep using them to keep fibroids small. This is usually prescribed by the doctor before the removal of fibroids.
- Oral therapies like, Elagolix, a new therapy to help women who have fibriods and heavy bleeding in peri/menopause. This is something you can use for up to 24 months, but you have to be monitored by your doctor while taking this.
The more you know:
As we always say with peri/menopause symptoms, it’s best to take account of your symptoms and figure out what your triggers are to see how you can adjust to make your experience with peri/menopause better. My best advice is to do the same thing with fibroids. Make sure you see your doctor or gynecologist regularly and you are aware of your family history.
And since we encourage women to be open about their experiences, I want to share some background info on me with you, too. After going through this personally, and researching as much as I have, these are the things that stand out to me as being relevant to my fibroid experience:
-I have had 2 pregnancies, and three children (one set of twins). My children are 11 and 9.
-I was deficient in vitamin D.
-I was almost anemic when I found out I had fibroids.
-I am half black (my mom is black).
-I started my period at 11 years old.
-I had very heavy periods for about two years.
After my fibroid experience, I feel I am better prepared for what I might experience during peri/menopause. I hope that with the information we’ve provided, you are, too! Let us know about your fibroid experience during peri/menopause in the comments below. The more we share, the more we know!