Birth Control and Fibroids
In the United States, around 14% of women aged 15 to 49 use birth control pills. The pill helps with preventing unplanned pregnancies, as well as regulating menstrual cycles and alleviating problems like heavy bleeding and severe cramps.
If you are experiencing challenging symptoms surrounding your period that limit your daily activities, we recommend talking to your doctor. One potential cause may be uterine fibroids, a type of noncancerous tumor that commonly develops in or on the uterus. Up to 70% of U.S. women have uterine fibroids.
If you have already been diagnosed with uterine fibroids, you may wonder if birth control pills can relieve your symptoms. You may also have questions about whether the pill influences fibroid growth. At USA Fibroid Centers, our fibroid specialists are available to answer your questions and evaluate your health to make a personal health plan.
How Does Birth Control Interact with Fibroids?
It is widely believed that fibroid growth is influenced by hormones, including estrogen and progesterone. While hormonal birth control may help alleviate some fibroid symptoms, they also release hormones into the body that may influence fibroid growth. However, more study is needed to understand the full effects of birth control pills on uterine fibroids.
Background on Uterine Fibroids
Did you know that abnormal bleeding is one of the most common symptoms of fibroids? If you are bleeding outside of your menstrual cycle, noticed that your flow is heavier or longer than normal, or experienced severe pelvic pain, uterine fibroids may be the cause.
Although these benign growths don’t always cause symptoms, they can be responsible for the following:
- An enlarged uterus
- Pelvic or lower back pain
- Abnormal and prolonged bleeding
- Anemia-induced fatigue
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Frequent urination
- Severe cramps or pelvic pressure
If you experience any of the above symptoms, you should contact a fibroid specialist for evaluation.
How Does Birth Control Work?
Two main types of birth control pills exist: The first involves a combination of the hormones estrogen and progestin (synthetic progesterone), and the other only uses progestin. The progestin-only type is commonly known as the “mini pill”.
Both types of birth control pills work by preventing fertilization, which occurs when an egg and sperm join together. In the case of a full strength pill (estrogen and progesterone), the hormones aim to keep the body from ovulating (releasing an egg) in the first place.
In addition, the hormones released by taking the pill thicken the mucus in and around the cervix. When the cervical mucus is thickened, sperm cannot successfully get through the cervix. The mini pill (progesterone only) largely relies on this element.
Lastly, some birth control pills can change the lining of the womb so that a fertilized egg will most likely not be implanted.
There are many different kinds of birth control that produce various levels of hormones. Understanding these differences can help you determine how hormones may affect your entire body. Some of these include:
- Cardiovascular conditions
- Blood clots like deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Increased blood pressure
- Benign liver or uterine tumors
- Potentially some types of cancer, including breast, cervical, and ovarian
Many of these conditions can be monitored and managed successfully; others may only affect people who are already at an increased risk. It’s important to discuss the pros and cons of taking hormonal contraceptives with your doctor.
Does Birth Control Help Fibroids?
As we mentioned above, taking birth control pills may increase your risk of benign uterine tumors, also known as uterine fibroids. Find out what you need to know about birth control pills, hormones, and uterine fibroids.
Can Taking Birth Control Shrink My Fibroids?
There is no evidence that suggests the use of oral contraceptives can reduce the size of your fibroids. It is widely believed in the medical community that birth control pills may increase fibroid growth. This is because there appears to be a connection between fibroids and hormones that affect the uterine lining, particularly with estrogen and progesterone.
If you are looking for ways to shrink or remove your fibroids, we recommend discussing treatment options with a fibroid specialist. If you’ve been avoiding this route because you believe that hysterectomy, the surgical removal of the uterus, is your only treatment option, we encourage you to discuss your full range of options with your doctor or a qualified specialist.
An effective, non-surgical, outpatient procedure called Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) can shrink your fibroids and alleviate difficult fibroid symptoms like heavy periods and severe cramps.
Will Taking Birth Control Pills Impact My Fibroid Symptoms?
For many people, the presence of fibroids can increase menstrual flow and cause painful cramps. Birth control pills, on the other hand, are known to reduce both. For some, certain forms of oral contraceptives can stop menstruation altogether when taken as prescribed.
If you are experiencing heavy, painful periods due to fibroids, your doctor may suggest taking birth control pills to see if they reduce your bleeding. However, a recent study suggests that it’s not clear how effective the pill is in relieving fibroid symptoms. At this point, there isn’t enough scientific research to make widespread recommendations about using birth control pills to treat fibroid symptoms.
We want you to understand that treating the underlying cause of your symptoms, the fibroids themselves, may be a more effective approach than trying to address only your symptoms. We suggest you talk to your doctor about birth control and fibroids for your individual situation.
Along with discussing the potential benefits of birth control on fibroid growth with a medical provider, we also recommend exploring your full range of fibroid treatment options, both surgical and non-surgical, with a fibroid specialist. Instead of simply treating individual symptoms like excessive bleeding or severe cramping, it may be beneficial to address the root cause behind all of your fibroid symptoms. Our experts at USA Fibroid Centers can inform you on your full range of available treatments.
Can Birth Control Cause Fibroids to Develop or Grow?
While fibroid growth is not completely understood, research has demonstrated a link between fibroids and hormones. If you already have fibroids, taking birth control pills (especially high-strength ones) may help alleviate symptoms like heavy periods and severe cramps, but may also lead to additional fibroid growth.
On the other hand, if you’re free of fibroids currently, there appears to be a slightly lower risk of developing fibroids if you’re also taking birth control pills, especially low-dose estrogen pills. The correlation between birth control and fibroid growth requires additional research for better understanding.
What’s The Best Birth Control to Take if You Have Fibroids?
Taking either a full strength pill (estrogen and progesterone) or a mini pill (progesterone only) can help reduce menstrual bleeding whether or not you have uterine fibroids.
Low-dose birth control pills contain fewer hormones than regular pills and are not believed to cause fibroid growth. They are effective at preventing pregnancy and tend to have fewer side effects and risks than higher strength birth control pills.
If you’re trying to avoid fibroid growth, the best birth control for fibroids may be a low-dose pill. However, regular strength birth control pills may offer better control of your fibroid symptoms and slightly more effective protection against pregnancy. It is best to discuss the pros and cons of your unique circumstances with your medical provider when making this decision.
Discuss Your Options with a Fibroid Specialist
If you have questions about birth control and fibroids, our compassionate fibroid specialists can help. They can also discuss your fibroid treatment options.
Our specialists offer a minimally invasive fibroid treatment called Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), an effective, lower risk, minimally invasive procedure. As America’s #1 fibroid treatment provider, USA Fibroid Centers have dozens of clinics located across the nation. We also offer convenient virtual doctor visits.
No matter where you choose to book your appointment, we look forward to helping you improve the quality of your life. To learn more, give us a call at 855.615.2555 or schedule an appointment online.