What does having an enlarged uterus mean?
Most women associate an enlarged uterus with pregnancy, but that’s not the only reason your uterus can become enlarged. Large, or multiple fibroids, can cause an expansion of the uterus. Some women may notice weight gain, a bloated belly, or a feeling of fullness in the lower abdomen; while others may not notice it at all.
Many of our patients reveal they first noticed a change when their pants did not fit, or their belly felt full or looked expanded. A pelvic exam or an imaging test such as an ultrasound or MRI can be used to diagnose an enlarged uterus.
Symptoms of uterine fibroids
Every woman’s experience with fibroids is very different. For some women with fibroids, they may not experience any symptoms; however, others may struggle with chronic pain. Having an expanded uterus is just one of the possible symptoms you may experience if you have fibroids, others include:
- Heavy periods lasting more than 10 days per month
- Severe pelvic pain or cramping
- Anemia caused by heavy bleeding
- Bleeding between menstrual cycles
- Pain during intercourse
- Frequent urination or difficulty emptying the bladder
- Lower back or leg pain
The emotional and physical toll of fibroids
Struggling with fibroids is usually associated with physical pain or discomfort, but we often forget about the emotional toll it can take. Having an enlarged uterus can affect a woman’s self-confidence, body image, and even love life. We all know that having an expanded abdomen shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying life, but for some women it still does. Some of our patients have shared they couldn’t wear what they wanted when going out with friends, were embarrassed of wearing a bathing suit to the pool, or didn’t feel confident with their partner during intimacy.
Not only does body image and insecurities cause distress, but the constant worry and fear around bleeding through your clothes in public or not having enough feminine hygiene products while away from the house can be exhausting. Many women state that living with fibroids caused them to feel as if they had no control over their bodies and that they were preventing them from enjoying the things they used to love. This is primarily due to the difficulty of managing and predicting heavy periods.
Why fibroids sometimes cause an enlarged uterus
Fibroids can cause an enlarged uterus if they grow to a large size or become numerous. The exact cause of fibroid growth is still unknown; however, researchers know they grow and shrink when there is an increase or decrease of hormones – estrogen and progesterone.
While some fibroids are as tiny as seeds, they can also grow as large as a melon. Their location isn’t limited to inside the uterine cavity; they can grow on the outside of the uterus, within the lining of the uterus, and can even attach themselves to the wall of the uterus by a stalk. If the fibroid(s) grow larger within the uterine cavity, they may expand the uterus just like a pregnancy does. If the fibroid(s) grow larger outside into the uterine wall, they may press on surrounding organs.
How fibroids affect surrounding organs
Fibroid symptoms and pain is often associated with pelvic pain or heavy bleeding, but there are other organs that can be affected as well.
- Bladder – Many women who have large fibroids may feel the need to frequently run to the bathroom. They may also have difficulty emptying their bladder if the expanded uterus puts too much pressure on the tube leading to the urethra.
- Rectum – A large fibroid can push down on the rectum, making bowel movements difficult. This is why it is also possible that some women experience constipation or pain while defecating.
- Stomach – Some women may experience the feeling of fullness and may not be able to eat as much as they used to. This can even lead to significant weight loss.
Treatment for an enlarged uterus
If you think your expanded uterus is caused by fibroids, it’s a good idea to schedule a consultation to get checked. An interventional radiologist will use either an ultrasound or MRI to diagnose your fibroids and then will work with you to create a comprehensive treatment plan. It’s important to consider your treatment options and understand that invasive surgery is not the only solution.
Non-surgical treatments like Uterine Fibroid Embolization offer many benefits such as no hospitalization, a shorter recovery, the ability to preserve your uterus, and retain fertility.