Go With The Flow

Understanding the Link Between Uterine Fibroids and Heavy Menstrual Bleeding

We had the chance of hearing from Ananya Shankar, a teacher and a guitarist from Mumbai, about uterine fibroids. She was brave enough to share her experience for us all to read:“With uterine fibroids (which I didn’t know back then), one of my periods lasted for 24 days!It was painful and it was horrible. I was a little concerned when my period crossed the 7-day mark, but I got so used to the bleeding that my brain didn’t even recognize that bleeding longer than 7 days wasn’t normal. All I did was stock up on heavy flow pads and go with the flow.On my 21st day of continued bleeding, I spoke to my sister about it. THREE weeks! she screamed. It finally settled in that something was wrong with my body. I went to see my family doctor the next day. She ran a host of tests on me and diagnosed me with uterine fibroids. Once my bleeding stopped at the start of the 24th day, my doctor suggested that I might need surgery. The next month, I went through a less invasive surgical procedure called FUS and my periods have been normal ever since.”

What is a uterine fibroid?

If you have no clue, you’re not alone. Uterine fibroids are tumors that grow in and around the uterus. The good news: They are benign or non-cancerous. The bad news: They can come with a host of painful and potentially dangerous symptoms that can range from moderate to severe.As you might’ve already guessed from the topic of the blog and Ananya’s testimony, it can also cause prolonged and heavy menstrual bleeding.

Understanding uterine fibroids

A fibroid can be small, single, big, or multiple lumps of muscle and fibrous tissue and tend to go away on their own. And actually, fibroids are very common. Up to 80 women in 100 will develop at least one fibroid by the time they reach the age of 50.Then again, yes, you might’ve never heard of it before because for some people, it causes no symptoms at all! For others, they might experience these uncomfortable symptoms of uterine fibroids:
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding with longer periods.
  • Bleeding between periods.
  • Abdominal pain, pressure and cramping.
  • Painful sex.
  • Large blood clots.
  • Frequent, difficult or urgent urination or bowel movements due to bladder or bowel pressure.
Sometimes uterine fibroids may cause more serious health conditions such as infertility, anemia, and miscarriage.

Uterine fibroids and periods: A match made in hell

The link between fibroids and heavy periods is not clearly defined. However, there are a few theories that attempt to explain this relationship.
  • Distortion of the uterine cavity

    Fibroids can distort the shape of the uterine cavity or the womb, which can affect the normal flow of menstrual blood, resulting in heavy and prolonged bleeding.
  • Increased surface area of the endometrium

    The presence of fibroids can increase the surface area of the endometrium, the inner lining of the uterus. This can lead to increased blood supply to the endometrium and heavier bleeding during menstruation.
  • Abnormal blood vessel growth

    Fibroids contain an abnormal network of blood vessels, which can result in excessive bleeding during menstruation.
  • Hormonal imbalances

    Hormonal imbalances, such as an excess of estrogen in comparison to progesterone, can contribute to the growth of fibroids and heavy menstrual bleeding.There might be other mechanisms behind this relationship too that’re not yet clearly understood or remain undiscovered and unexplored.

Diagnosing Uterine fibroids and heavy menstrual bleeding

While half of women with uterine fibroids don’t experience any heavy bleeding, there are many other causes of heavy menstrual bleeding such as endometriosis, polyps, thyroid disorders, too. So, it’s important to get to the root of your heavy bleeding to determine what the causes of uterine fibroids are.Along with detailed discussion about your medical history and physical exam to check for irregularities in the shape and size of your uterus, your doctor might run these imaging tests to diagnose uterine fibroids:
  • Ultrasound: Uses sound waves to create images of the uterus and can help your doctor see any fibroids that are present.
  • Ultrasound: Uses sound waves to create images of the uterus and can help your doctor see any fibroids that are present.
  • Hysteroscopy: Involves inserting a thin, lighted tube through the cervix and into the uterus to visualize the fibroids that are inside the uterus.
Once your doctor has confirmed the presence of uterine fibroids, they may recommend further testing or treatment options based on the size, location, and symptoms associated with the fibroids.

Treatment options for uterine fibroids and heavy menstrual bleeding

There’s no one-size-fits-all uterine fibroids treatment. Your treatment option will depend on your age, health history, desire for fertility and conception, symptoms, size, location, and the number of fibroids.

Medications

Birth control-

The first line of uterine fibroids treatment your doctors will resort to. Medications to regulate your hormone levels and prevent ovulation may also help shrink uterine fibroids.

OTC meds-

Over-the-counter pain meds and anti-inflammatory meds won’t shrink existing fibroids or prevent new fibroids from growing. But they help you manage the discomfort felt with uterine fibroids.

Surgery

Hysterectomy-

An effective last-resort treatment in which your uterus is entirely removed and with it fertility goes completely off the table.

Myomectomy-

In this treatment, fibroids are surgically removed and the uterus is reconstructed. While it doesn’t cause infertility, research shows that women who had more than six fibroids removed were less likely to get pregnant than others.

Less-invasive surgeries

Less invasive surgeries use small incisions and specialized instruments to perform surgeries, causing less trauma to the body, resulting in less pain and scarring, and requiring less recovery time compared to traditional open surgeries.Some less invasive surgeries for uterine fibroids:

Focused ultrasound surgery (FUS):

In FUS, high frequency sound waves are used to target and destroy fibroids in a special MRI machine.

Uterine artery embolization:

Tiny particles about the size of a grain sand are injected into your uterus to cut off blood supply to the fibroids.

Cryomyolysis:

Fibroids are destroyed through freezing.

Endometrial ablation:

In this procedure, the lining of the uterus is destroyed through heat or electrical waves. While it doesn’t get rid of the fibroids, it works well as a heavy menstrual bleeding treatment.

Home remedies

Home remedies may ease fibroid symptoms but cannot cure fibroids, but if you’re one of the many folks looking for natural remedies, here’s some suggestions:
  • Massage therapy
  • Yoga and exercise
  • Acupuncture
  • Heating pads and hot baths to ease cramps
  • Green tea
Definitely let your doctor know before you start any of these, they might have warnings and tips for you.Now remember, uterine fibroids are a common condition that responds well to treatment. If you notice something wrong with your periods, contact your doctor pronto. If they can’t determine the cause behind your abnormal periods, push for more tests! In a perfect world, your doctor will run every test to rule out every cause; but it’s not a perfect world so you’d have to do some pushing of your own. Once the correct cause is identified, it’ll be a smooth sail from there. Take care and we’ll see you in our next blog.

What causes very heavy menstrual bleeding?

There are several potential causes of heavy menstrual bleeding, also known as menorrhagia. These can include hormonal imbalances, uterine fibroids or polyps, adenomyosis, endometriosis, blood clotting disorders, thyroid problems, or certain medications.

Should I be worried about a very heavy period?

If you experience very heavy menstrual bleeding, it is always a good idea to speak with your doctor. While heavy bleeding can sometimes be normal, it can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition that requires treatment.

How do I stop heavy menstrual bleeding?

The best way to stop heavy menstrual bleeding will depend on the underlying cause. Treatment options can include hormonal birth control, anti-inflammatory drugs, or in severe cases, surgery such as endometrial ablation or hysterectomy. Your doctor can help determine the best course of action based on your individual situation.

How long does heavy bleeding last with fibroids?

The length of time heavy bleeding lasts with fibroids can vary depending on the individual and the severity of the fibroids. While the average days you can bleed with uterine fibroids is 8 or 9 days, there have been reports of women bleeding continually for 30 to 60 days.

Can uterine fibroids make periods worse?

Yes, uterine fibroids can make periods worse by causing heavy bleeding, longer periods, and more cramping. Additionally, fibroids can cause other symptoms such as pelvic pain, back pain, and frequent urination.

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