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Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that grow in or around your womb (uterus) and may cause heavy or painful periods. They're also called:

  • Fibroids in the womb
  • Fibromyomas
  • Leiomyomas
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Uterine myomas

What are fibroids?

Fibroids can be very small or grow as large as a melon. You may have more than one fibroid.

Around one in five women between 30 and 50 years have fibroids. The risk of having them is higher if you:

  • Have a family history of fibroids
  • Are overweight
  • Have a diet low in fruit and vegetables
  • Use the contraceptive pill

You may not realise you have fibroids, as sometimes there are no symptoms. However, the condition can cause problems, including heavy or painful periods and, occasionally, infertility, so it's important to see a GP if you're concerned.

Fibroids mostly disappear naturally after the menopause.

How to tell if you have fibroids

Fibroids symptoms can include:

  • A frequent need to urinate
  • Constipation
  • Heavy or painful periods
  • Lower back pain
  • Pain or discomfort during sex
  • Stomach (abdominal) pain

In rare cases, fibroids can make it difficult to become pregnant.

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

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Diagnosis and tests for fibroids

Tell your GP if you have ongoing fibroid symptoms.

They'll perform a pelvic examination and, if necessary, an ultrasound scan which will show any fibroids in your womb.

You may be referred to a gynaecologist (a doctor specialising in the female reproductive system) for further investigations, such as:

  • Hysteroscopy – a telescopic device is inserted through your vagina and used to look for fibroids inside your womb. This is usually done under local anaesthetic
  • Laparoscopy - a telescopic device is inserted through a small incision in your abdomen and used to look for fibroids around your womb. This is done under general anaesthetic

During these procedures a small tissue sample (biopsy) may be removed to examine under a microscope.

Causes of fibroids

The exact cause isn’t always known. However, oestrogen and progesterone may cause fibroids to grow. These are female sex hormones that cause the lining of your womb to develop again after each menstrual cycle.

If you're pregnant, the natural increase in production of oestrogen and progesterone can cause fibroids to grow quickly.

Common treatments for fibroids

Fibroids without symptoms don't need treatment. They'll often shrink and disappear by themselves over time.

If symptoms are a problem, treatments include:

  • Medicines to reduce heavy periods, including the contraceptive pill
  • Medicines to shrink fibroids
  • Hormone-releasing intra-uterine devices
  • Fibroid removal surgery – there are various minimally-invasive techniques used
  • Surgery to remove the womb (hysterectomy)