Sometimes, a heavy flow is just a heavy flow –– but other times, abnormal bleeding and irregular periods can be caused by uterine fibroids. Fibroids, also known as leiomyomas, are common, non-cancerous tumors that form in or on the uterus. Women of reproductive age are at greatest risk, and the majority of women develop fibroids by the age of 50.
Fibroids often cause painful and unpleasant symptoms. Common complications are fibroids heavy bleeding, prolonged periods, bleeding between periods, abdominal pain and cramps, frequent urination, pelvic pain and pressure, pain during sexual intercourse, anemia, and debilitating fatigue.
To find out whether you may be experiencing fibroid symptoms, take the Uterine Fibroid Symptoms Quiz. If you’ve ever described your periods as irregular, abnormal, painful, inconvenient, stressful, or messy — we recommend discussing fibroids and heavy periods with your doctor.
What is Normal vs. Abnormal Uterine Fibroids Bleeding?
When it comes to menstruation, what is normal for your period can be very different than what is normal for someone else. It can be extremely difficult to know if your flow is considered heavy, since this is subjective and hard to compare to others. Also, there are many factors that influence length, heaviness, and frequency. Pay attention to your period to be aware of any ongoing health conditions or alarming symptoms.
A healthy period typically last between 3-8 days, with a heavier flow the first two days that gets increasingly lighter.
Women with healthy periods may also experience limited spotting, cramps that ache but can be controlled by over-the-counter pain medications, and/or bloating that goes away once your period is over.
Abnormal Period or Fibroids Bleeding
Abnormal bleeding, such as the bleeding that occurs with fibroids and heavy periods, often lasts more than 10 days per month. This fibroid symptom involves persistent bleeding between cycles, which can severely impact your quality of life.
Abnormal bleeding can be considered missing three or more periods in a row, or periods that occur less than 21 days or more than 35 days apart from each other. Some women also experience fibroids bleeding every day. Another indication of an abnormal period is bleeding through multiple pads and tampons in a short amount of time.
When to Worry
Those with fibroids and heavy periods may experience bleeding that lasts for longer than eight days, with more than two to three days of heavy bleeding at the outset. In addition to blood clots in your flow, fibroids can cause spotting in between periods.
It’s important to track the length and heaviness of your period, along with other related symptoms. If something changes from your typical bleeding, you should consult a physician immediately. Keep reading to learn more about why do fibroids cause heavy bleeding.
Why Do Fibroids Cause Heavy Bleeding?
The answer to “Why do fibroids cause heavy periods?” is not entirely understood. Because fibroids are connected to your uterine lining, the pressure of the fibroid(s) against the uterine wall can cause the endometrial tissue to bleed more than it normally would.
At the time of your menstrual period, the uterine lining sheds and the uterus has two basic mechanisms to stop itself from bleeding. The first is the normal blood-clotting mechanism that works throughout the body by forming plugs within the blood vessels. Because the uterus is a muscle, it also has the unique ability to contract the bleeding vessels of the uterus. These contractions are what you may experience as menstrual cramps.
It is believed that fibroids don’t allow the uterus to contract properly, so it isn’t able to effectively stop menstrual bleeding. Another issue is fibroids produce growth factors (proteins) that stimulate the blood vessels of the uterus and cause more blood in the uterine cavity, leading to heavier periods.
Fibroids and heavy periods can potentially cause anemia (iron deficiency). If you’re feeling tired or worn out most of the time and suspect you may be anemic, contact your doctor immediately. Also, if your periods are causing you mental or physical discomfort, it’s important to get checked for uterine fibroids or other underlying uterine conditions.
How to Survive Fibroids and Heavy Periods Before Treatment
For many, forgetting pads, tampons, or Ibuprofen may just be a small inconvenience at work or during a night out, but for others –– especially those with uterine fibroids –– this could mean cancelling plans in order to rush home. To avoid such a scenario, we recommend creating a Period Survival Kit to keep on hand at all times.
To remain comfortable and stress-free, stock up on these essential items:
Pads: Pads give a sense of protection and can help reduce the worry on days when your fibroids cause heavy bleeding. You can also double up at night in order to rest peacefully.
Tampons: Purchasing a mix of super plus, super, regular, and light allows you to always have the right ones available during the beginning, middle, and end of your period.
Pain-relieving medicine: Because fibroid pain can sometimes be debilitating, pain-relieving medications –– such as Ibuprofen –– may help.
Water bottle: Almost everyone can benefit from consuming more water — especially when you’re on your period. Staying hydrated can also help bloating and cramps.
Extra Underwear: Irregular periods and spotting may occur, sometimes bleeding through pads. An extra pair of underwear can save the day.
Extra Pants: It is always advisable to have a pair of comfortable pants or shorts with you in case your tampons or pads leak.
Pantyliners: This handy, low-profile product can help prevent bleeding through, along with allowing some extra assurance if you are experiencing bladder leakage from frequent or urgent urination.
Heating Pad: The comfort of heat –– whether from electric heating pads, hot water bottles, or stick-on heat wraps –– can help lessen the intensity of cramps.
Snacks: When bleeding heavily, you may sometimes feel lightheaded or just a little off. A small snack, such as a granola bar, fruit, or nuts can go a long way –– but avoid foods that are high in sodium or saturated fats. Dark chocolate is a satisfying, low-sugar treat that can even help increase iron levels.
Herbal Tea Packets: If you’re dealing with constipation, one cup of coffee may actually help. Otherwise, we recommend avoiding sugary and/or caffeinated drinks –– which can actually make pelvic pain or cramps worse.
Pillows: Did you know that fibroids can cause lower back and leg pain? For times when you unexpectedly need to lie down and rest, it’s a good idea to keep a small pillow in your car.
Additional Symptoms Caused by Uterine Fibroids
Although some fibroids don’t cause any symptoms, the effects of uterine fibroids can be problematic for many. Fibroids have the potential to cause painful, unpleasant, and inconvenient symptoms that include:
- Heavy or prolonged menstruation
- Anemia-induced fatigue
- Pelvic or lower back pain
- Stomach bloating
- Frequent urination
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Severe cramps or pelvic pressure
If you’ve noticed changes that impact your daily life, it’s crucial to contact your doctor. When experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, you should consider consulting a fibroid specialist.
We aim to educate patients on a non-surgical procedure that can effectively shrink fibroids and reduce symptoms. When it comes to treatment for fibroids and heavy periods, USA Fibroid Centers can help.
USA Fibroid Centers and Uterine Fibroid Embolization
We have dozens of fibroid treatment facilities across the US, in 16 states. We specialize in a nonsurgical, outpatient procedure called Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE).
UFE is a great less-invasive alternative to fibroid removal surgery. Our team of specialists and physicians have extensive experience utilizing minimally-invasive techniques for treatment of uterine fibroids. That means you can always feel good about getting uterine fibroid treatment from us.
During a UFE procedure, a tiny catheter goes into the uterine artery that supplies blood to the fibroid. The doctor then injects small particles through the catheter to block blood flow to the fibroid. This causes the fibroid tumor to shrink and eventually die.
After UFE, a majority of patients recover within 1-2 weeks, and experience a lighter and shorter menstrual cycle in the future.
Other benefits of UFE include:
- Preservation of the uterus and ovaries
- Doesn’t impact fertility
- No hospitalization is required
- Treatment does not interfere with hormones
- Brings quick, effective relief of fibroid symptoms
- Does not require general anesthesia or stitches
- Involves lower risks when compared to surgery procedures
If you are experiencing symptoms from fibroids and heavy periods, we may have a solution for you. Give us a call to learn more about USA Fibroid Centers and Uterine Fibroid Embolization, and schedule an appointment today.