At USA Fibroid Centers, our fibroid specialists understand how uterine fibroids can complicate your daily life. You may be wondering what to do about heavy periods that make it difficult to go to work, frequent urination that requires you to remain near a bathroom all day, or low energy levels that sometimes keep you from getting up in the morning.
Along with managing your debilitating fibroid symptoms, you may also have questions about what form of birth control you should use. Perhaps you’ve even heard a rumor that certain types of contraception can be used to treat fibroids. Unfortunately, this isn’t true; although, in some cases, hormonal birth control can help you deal with the painful and unpleasant effects of fibroids. There isn’t a simple answer when it comes to selecting the best contraceptive for fibroids. If you decide you want to try one, you should base your decision on:
- Your fibroid symptoms
- Medical history
- When (or if) you’d like to have children in the future
- A thorough discussion with your healthcare provider about the pros and cons of your various options
You should consider talking to your healthcare provider about your birth control options if you know you have uterine fibroids.
Birth Control and Fibroids
When considering which method is your best birth control for fibroids, we recommend discussing the following topics with your doctor:
- Effectiveness: Although only abstinence is 100% effective at preventing pregnancy, several other methods, including an IUD, are 99% effective.
- Ease of use: Condoms can break, it’s easy to forget a daily pill, diaphragms are somewhat challenging to use, and you may dislike the idea of an implant. Think about what is most accessible and most comfortable for you. Once inserted, an IUD requires little attention and can be left in for 3 to 12 years.
- When you plan to have children: There are short-term, long-term, and permanent solutions when it comes to effective birth control. You may want to factor in the timing of your future family plans when choosing your method. An IUD is a long-term, though reversible, solution.
- Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) risk: Although many types of contraception can prevent pregnancy, only one type can prevent STDs: condoms. If you are at risk for contracting an STD, we suggest using either external or internal condoms along with a backup birth control method for greater protection.
- Your period: If you are experiencing heavy periods and severe cramps due to uterine fibroids, hormonal birth control may help control your symptoms. Some IUDs, birth control pills, and several other contraceptive methods involve the use of hormones.
- Fibroid hormones: Because there is a link between fibroids and the hormones affecting the uterine lining, such as estrogen and progesterone, you may prefer to avoid hormonal based birth control entirely, especially if heavy bleeding and cramps aren’t your primary concern. You may also be advised to avoid estrogen if you are breastfeeding, smoke, or have a history of breast cancer, high blood pressure, or blood clots.
More About IUDs in the Uterus
An IUD (intrauterine device) is a tiny, T-shaped device placed into your uterus to prevent pregnancy. IUDs are one of the most effective, easiest to use birth control options available.
There are two main types of IUDs: hormonal and non-hormonal. Hormonal IUDs (Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla are some examples) release progestin (synthetic progesterone), which thins the uterine lining, thickens cervical mucus, and partially suppresses ovulation. Non-hormonal IUDs (Paragard) instead release copper into the uterus, causing an inflammatory reaction that creates a toxic environment for sperm.
You may be wondering, “Can I get an IUD if I have fibroids?” For many, the answer is yes. However, there are some cases when uterine fibroids distort the shape of the inner uterus. If this occurs, an alternate birth control method is more appropriate.
Can I Get an IUD If I Have Fibroids?
You can use an IUD even if you have been diagnosed with uterine fibroids. A hormonal IUD can help reduce heavy bleeding and shorten the length of your periods, which can help improve fibroid symptoms. However, IUDs don’t cure fibroids, though they may minimize symptoms. You will still need to see a fibroid specialist to determine the best fibroid treatment plan for you.
IUD Side Effects
While IUDs are a safe and effective method of birth control, you may notice side effects from the initial insertion, such as abdominal cramping and mild back pain for a few days. Spotting and irregular periods are also common while your body adjusts to the IUD. However, these symptoms will eventually go away.
Hormonal Side Effects
It is common to experience some side effects with hormonal IUDs. That being said, the benefit of a hormonal IUD is that it typically reduces cramps and symptoms of PMS while decreasing blood flow during menstruation. Some women stop having a period during their cycle, which is a normal side effect of hormonal IUDs.
Hormonal IUDs and Fibroids
Many women with fibroids find that using a hormonal (progestin releasing) IUD can reduce fibroid symptoms and give them some relief, particularly when it comes to heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding. Because one of the effects of progestin is to thin the uterine lining, there is typically less menstrual blood each month, which results in a lighter flow.
If you use a hormonal IUD, you may also experience an improvement in anemia-related symptoms, such as fatigue and weakness, due to reduced menstrual flow.
Period cramps can also be improved with this type of birth control, since the chemicals that cause cramping come from cells in your uterine lining. Therefore, when a thinning of the uterine lining occurs, fewer chemicals are around to cause menstrual cramps.
How Long Does Mirena IUD Last?
Mirena is an IUD designed to provide long-term protection from pregnancy. It releases the hormone progestin, which thins the uterine lining and thickens the cervical mucus, which prevents the sperm from coming into contact with the egg while partially suppressing ovulation. This method of birth control can last for up to five years.
Non-Hormonal IUDs and Fibroids
Although there isn’t much direct evidence that small amounts of progestin –– such as that found in low-dose hormonal IUDs –– cause fibroid growth, we understand that you may want to avoid hormones altogether due to a suspected link between artificial hormones and fibroids.
If so, non-hormonal IUDs can effectively prevent pregnancy –– but they will not improve the heavy periods and cramping associated with uterine fibroids. In some cases, this type of contraception can actually cause increased bleeding and cramping.
Paragard Copper IUD
Paragard is a non-hormonal IUD or a copper IUD. It uses a copper filament that is wrapped around the T-shape of the IUD. This type of IUD can last up to 10 years as an effective form of birth control. The downside is that it can cause heavier periods, which may concern anyone diagnosed with fibroids who already experience heavier than average periods.
What Our Experts Want You to Know About IUDs and Fibroids
When choosing either a hormonal or non-hormonal IUD, we want you to be aware that you may possess higher rates of IUD expulsion than a woman without fibroids. IUD expulsion is when an IUD falls out of the uterus, either fully or partially. If this occurs, you should use an alternate method of birth control and contact your doctor to see if you should attempt reinsertion.
If you are considering any type of IUD, we want to be very clear that fibroid symptom relief is not the same thing as fibroid treatment. In other words, an IUD will not prompt your fibroids to shrink, disappear, or stop growing.
When you decide to have your IUD removed in the future, your fibroid symptoms are likely to return. If you remove your IUD to become pregnant, you should know that pregnancy hormones often cause fibroids to grow. Fortunately, our fibroid experts have a solution.
Uterine Fibroid Treatment at USA Fibroid Centers
Although certain birth control methods, including hormonal IUDs, can give you temporary relief from fibroid symptoms, there is a better way to go. We suggest visiting one of our fibroid specialists to learn how to treat the underlying cause behind your symptoms.
If you’ve been avoiding treatment because you believe hysterectomy –– the complete surgical removal of the uterus –– is your only option, we have good news. At USA Fibroid Centers, we offer an effective, minimally-invasive fibroid treatment called Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE).
Uterine Fibroid Embolization can:
- Be performed as an outpatient procedure
- Eliminate your symptoms
- Retain your fertility
- Quickly get you back to normal living
UFE takes only 30 to 45 minutes, and you can return home after a short recovery period. To explore how UFE can help you find freedom from fibroids, schedule an appointment online. Oh, and don’t forget to put together a list of your fibroid-related questions! We look forward to answering all of them and helping you reclaim your life. You can also call 855.615.2555 to visit one of our accredited centers close to you.