Medical research tells us many things about uterine fibroids, but one question we don’t have a clear answer to is: Does stress cause fibroids? There is no known specific cause for uterine fibroids, although it is believed that genetics, age, and hormone levels may be factors contributing to the possibility that a woman will develop these benign tumors. However, the possible role stress may play in fibroids is an area fertile for deeper research. In 2011, one study found an association between stress and fibroids, but noted it would benefit from additional research in the area.
While it’s unknown if stress causes fibroids, there is much more available evidence that the opposite can be true. Ask any woman who is struggling with uterine fibroid symptoms if they are causing her stress, and the answer will most likely be “yes.” Women suffering from fibroid symptoms can have a painful experience that detracts from their quality of life. In these cases especially, it is absolutely crucial for women to get the help they need to re-establish normalcy and quality of life in their day to day.
Menstruation and Stress
The power of stress can be overwhelming and can even affect biological aspects like your period. Excessive worrying can put the digestive system into overdrive, causing stress symptoms like diarrhea, frequent urination, or abdominal pain. Experiencing these may indicate your levels of stress are becoming unhealthy.
For some women, chronic stress can even play a role in causing irregular periods. As your stress levels rise, there’s a chance that your menstrual period could potentially stop and start up at abnormal times. Some researchers have found that stress plays a role in suppressing the functioning of the hypothalamus, which controls the pituitary gland, which controls the thyroid, ovaries, and adrenal glands. All of these organs manage hormones that can directly affect your hormones.
How Do Fibroids Affect Emotions?
Asking “does stress cause fibroids” is not necessarily the right question to understand the relationship between fibroids and stressors. Uterine fibroids can be both mentally and physically straining.
Fibroids present many painful symptoms such as heavy and prolonged menstrual periods that can continue for more than a week, frequent urination, pelvic pain and pressure, pain during sexual intercourse, or fatigue caused by anemia due to heavy menstrual bleeding. It can be stressful having to deal with the discomfort these symptoms can cause.
The Physical Strain of Fibroids
Besides considering the physically painful symptoms, perhaps a better question to ask is: Do fibroids affect emotions? Fibroids can take a toll on a woman’s emotional health. Women experiencing fibroid pain during sexual intercourse are often stressed about how this may affect their relationship with their significant other. Frequent nighttime urination may disrupt a woman’s sleep, leading to a lack of energy and focus or increased irritability. Women who bleed copiously during their menstrual cycle may develop anemia due to the loss of blood, and that can lead to lethargy and fatigue. Women suffering from fibroids may also be dealing with poor self image if they have large fibroids that increase the size of the abdomen and make it appear as if they are pregnant. Some women may feel stressed and anxious that heavy or irregular menstrual blood flow will stain their clothes, especially while they are out in public.
The painful and challenging symptoms of fibroids can also cause stress in the workplace. According to a survey of nearly 1,000 women published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Journal of Women’s Health, 28% of them said they had to call in sick from work due to fibroid symptoms, while another 26% said they couldn’t fulfill their basic job responsibilities.
Feeling Weighed Down by Worry
Finally, uterine fibroids can trigger fear-related stress in women. The same survey reported that women with fibroids had many worries about their health: Fear that the fibroids would keep growing (79% of respondents), that the condition would lead to future health problems (63%), or that they would need a hysterectomy (55%), among other concerns. While the answer to the question “Does stress cause fibroids” is a maybe, studies indicate that for those wondering “Do fibroids cause stress” it’s much more likely to be a yes.
How to Effectively Manage Stress Caused by Fibroids
Finding the best way to cope with fibroids and stress is unique for every woman. If you’re unsure where to begin, try different type of stress relief techniques at least once to see which ones show the best results. Here are some of the most effective techniques to reducing stress and anxiety:
- Plan ahead – Reducing the worry of bleeding through your clothing in public starts by being ready. Check out our period survival guide to learn what to keep on your person at all times.
- Relaxation Exercises – Find your “ohm”. Yoga, stretching, meditation, breathing exercises, are great for loosening muscle tension and bring stress to normal levels.
- Keep your mind occupied – Distraction techniques whether to be reading, watching a movie, listening to music, or taking a walk, can help patients to temporarily shift the focus of attention away from their pain and other unpleasant bodily sensations associated with uterine fibroids.
- Lean on somebody – Talk to a friend or family member, as well as your doctor, if you are having difficulty managing stress levels. Pent up worry or frustration can cause even more stress, so it could be good to vent to someone close. Your doctor can help you find effective pain, as well as stress management techniques until you are able to get treatment.
Find Hope with Us
If you are suffering from painful and prolonged menstruation, don’t delay your treatment — no woman deserves to live in pain. At USA Fibroid Centers, we offer a minimally invasive and non-surgical treatment for fibroids, called Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE). During this treatment, the fibroid tumor is reduced in size and women can experience their symptoms gradually disappearing, with the added benefit of preserving your uterus.
Call 855.615.2555 or click the button below to schedule an initial consultation with our interventional radiologists. We want to help eliminate the source of fibroid-induced stress in your life.