Two out of three people born with ovaries will have at least one fibroid in their lifetime. Despite this, fibroids often go unnoticed because in the majority of cases, there are no symptoms.

Fibroids most commonly happen during your reproductive years (16-50 years) and are thought to be linked to our hormone levels as this is when estrogen and progesterone levels are higher, but the exact cause of fibroids isn’t really understood.

You don’t always need to treat fibroids, particularly if they’re not bothering you. However, if fibroids are causing symptoms such as heavy bleeding or pain, there are treatments available to relieve these symptoms. There are different interventions that aim to shrink the fibroid, or in more severe cases, remove it entirely.

The exact cause of fibroids remains unknown, but it’s generally thought that there’s a link between the hormones estrogen and progesterone and the development of fibroids. This is because fibroids most often happen during the reproductive stages of a woman’s life, when levels of estrogen and progesterone are higher.

Your reproductive years are classed as the ages between 16 to 50, although as we know, you can become pregnant as soon as you start menstruating. While fibroids can happen at any time, they most often happen between your 30s and your 50s.

Fibroids can affect people of all different ethnicities but are seen more frequently, and at younger ages, in Black women. If your mother or sister had fibroids, you’re a bit more likely to get them too, as family history seems to increase the risk of developing these growths.

Weight can also be a factor that affects the likelihood of developing fibroids. If your BMI is higher, you may produce more estrogen which is thought to promote the development of fibroids. Additionally, if you started your period before the age of 10, you eat a lot of red meat, consume beer regularly, or don’t eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, you might be at a higher risk of getting fibroids. Having high blood pressure also increases the risk of developing fibroids.

If you have had children, you actually have a lower risk of developing fibroids.  In fact, with each additional pregnancy, risk seems to decrease further.  Similarly, long term use of oral or injectable oral contraceptives may decrease risk of fibroids.  If you’re menopausal or postmenopausal, your risk of developing fibroids reduces too.

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The types of fibroid are categorized by where in the uterus they occur:

  • Intramural fibroids are the most common type of fibroid and are found in the muscle wall of the uterus.
  • Subserosal fibroids develop under the lining of the outer wall of the uterus and grow into the pelvic cavity – these types of fibroids can become quite large.
  • Submucosal fibroids develop under the inner lining of the uterus and grow into the uterine cavity.
  • Sometimes fibroids are attached to the uterus by a stalk of tissue and this would be described as a pedunculated fibroid.

In some cases, fibroids can grow so large they can cause you to look pregnant. You may be able to feel the fibroid too.

Fibroid symptoms

Symptoms of fibroids can be affected by where the fibroids are located, and the size and number of fibroids you have. Fibroids also vary in terms of how fast they can grow. Some don’t grow at all and others can shrink on their own.

It’s common for fibroids not to cause any symptoms at all and many people only find out they have fibroids during a pelvic exam or ultrasound that’s being carried out for another reason.

Around one third of women with fibroids will experience symptoms.

These are the most commonly experienced symptoms:

  • heavy bleeding on your period
  • painful periods
  • longer or more frequent periods
  • spotting or bleeding in between periods
  • pain or pressure in the pelvis, lower back, or stomach
  • a frequent need to pee, difficulty peeing or difficulty emptying the bladder fully
  • pain or discomfort when you have sex
  • a growing stomach area
  • constipation
  • feeling tired often and generally more run down or ‘weak’ (this could also be linked to anemia/low level of red blood cells, which is another common symptom associated with uterine fibroids)
  • some research also points to reproductive problems, including issues ranging from infertility to multiple miscarriages to early onset labor.

If you have some of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor. They will probably need to do a pelvic exam. If they can feel something’s not right, they may want to do an ultrasound to see if you have fibroids.  Additional types of imaging may be needed as well to confirm the diagnosis.  This will allow you both to make a plan on how to best treat them.


Get medical care right away if you have severe bleeding from the vagina or sharp pelvic pain that comes on fast.

Fibroids can be left alone if they’re not causing any symptoms. ‘Watchful waiting’ is a treatment approach where you keep a record of your symptoms.
You could try some dietary changes at this time too.

If you’re suffering because of symptoms caused by your fibroids, you can take medicine to help your heavy and painful periods, bladder issues and any other related pain.

There is medication to shrink fibroids.

If medication doesn’t work the fibroid tissue can be targeted more directly by various methods that tend to be minimally invasive.

If none of the above are successful, the last resort is surgery to remove the fibroid.  Sometimes only the fibroid(s) are removed, but in some cases a hysterectomy is performed removing the whole uterus in addition to the fibroids.

If you’d like to read more about fibroids visit any of the following sites:

As with many other reproductive conditions, treatment options depend on the severity of your symptoms and their impact on your quality of life, in addition to the location of the uterine fibroids. Also, whether or not you want to become pregnant can determine which treatments may be best for you to consider.

The important thing to remember is that fibroids are treatable. While some women experience very real and debilitating symptoms with fibroids, others do not notice they have them. The key thing to remember is that everyone is different. If you feel something isn’t quite right with your body, seek support and help. You are the expert in your own body and your healthcare provider is there to support you to investigate what is going on.