Heavy Bleeding or Fibroids?
Occasional heavy bleeding is not unusual, but if prolonged it does need investigating and best to know what you are experiencing.
What’s the difference?
If you are not sure what is behind the heavy bleeding you are experiencing, then there are usually two common causes.
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths of the uterus that often appear during childbearing years.
The good news is that they are not associated with an increased risk of uterine cancer and almost never develop into cancer.
Fibroids range in size from almost undetectable by the human eye, to bulky masses that can distort and enlarge the uterus. They can occur singly, or in multiples and in extreme cases, multiple fibroids can expand the uterus so much that it reaches the rib cage.
Many women have uterine fibroids sometime during their lives but they are not aware of them because they often cause no symptoms. They are often only discovered during a pelvic exam or prenatal ultrasound.
Many women who have fibroids don’t have any symptoms but in those that do, symptoms can be influenced by the location, size and number of fibroids and common symptoms include:
– Heavy menstrual bleeding
– Menstrual periods lasting more than a week
– Pelvic pressure or pain
– Frequent urination
– Difficulty emptying the bladder
– Backache or leg pains
Rarely, a fibroid can cause acute pain when it outgrows its blood supply, and begins to die but always consult your doctor if you have any of the following:
– Pelvic pain that doesn’t go away
– Overly heavy, prolonged or painful periods
– Spotting or bleeding between periods
– Difficulty emptying your bladder
Seek immediate help if you have severe vaginal bleeding or sharp pelvic pain that comes on suddenly.
What’s the cause?
Doctors will tell you that we don’t know the cause of uterine fibroids, but bioidentical doctors have certainly linked them to oestrogen dominance and low progesterone.
Other factors at work include:
1 Genetic changes are important as many fibroids contain changes in genes that differ from those in normal uterine muscle cells.
2 Hormones are the biggest influence at menopause as fibroids contain more oestrogen and progesterone receptors than normal uterine muscle cells do. These two hormones stimulate development of the uterine lining during each menstrual cycle in preparation for pregnancy, and appear to promote the growth of fibroids. As these tend to shrink after menopause due to a decrease in oestrogen production it is important to maintain good progesterone levels throughout menopause to help oppose any oestrogen dominance.
3 There are also other growth factors: substances that help the body maintain tissues, such as insulin-like growth factor, may affect fibroid growth.
Doctors believe that uterine fibroids develop from a stem cell in the smooth muscular tissue of the uterus (myometrium). A single cell divides repeatedly, eventually creating a firm, rubbery mass distinct from nearby tissue.
The growth patterns of uterine fibroids vary — they may grow slowly or rapidly, or they may remain the same size. Some fibroids go through growth spurts, and some may shrink on their own. Many fibroids that have been present during pregnancy shrink or disappear after pregnancy, as the uterus goes back to a normal size.
There are few known risk factors for uterine fibroids, other than being a woman of reproductive age. Other factors that can have an impact on fibroid development include:
Heredity. If your mother or sister had fibroids, you’re at increased risk of developing them.
Obesity is a factor where it is linked to oestrogen dominance so that a woman is producing too much oestrogen in relation to her progesterone production.
Environmental factors also have an impact such as onset of menstruation at an early age; use of birth control; obesity; a vitamin D deficiency; having a diet higher in red meat and lower in green vegetables, fruit and dairy; and drinking alcohol, including beer, appear to increase your risk of developing fibroids.
Although uterine fibroids usually aren’t dangerous, they can cause discomfort and may lead to complications such as anemia from heavy blood loss.
Although researchers continue to study the causes of fibroid tumours, little scientific evidence is available on how to prevent them but by making healthy lifestyle choices, such as limiting oestrogen intake and having good hormone balance is the best place to start.
By maintaining hormone balance and normal weight, and eating fruits and vegetables, you may be able to decrease your fibroid risk.