Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Women's Health

Select An Article
Font Size

Enlarged Uterus

From conception to delivery, a woman's uterus can grow from the size of a pear to the size of a watermelon. But pregnancy isn't the only potential reason for an enlarged uterus. An enlarged uterus is common and can be a symptom of a variety of medical conditions, some of which require treatment. 

Two of the most common causes of an enlarged uterus are uterine fibroids and adenomyosis.

Recommended Related to Women

How to Be Happy

By Stacy WeinerYou don't have to change much. Here, surprising ways to feel better every day I'm a nonstop happiness seeker. On long drives, I don't ask my husband, "Are we there yet?" I meditate on life and ask myself, "Am I happy yet?" Here's my happiness inventory: I have a great house, but the toilets gurgle incessantly. My 9-year-old son is adorable, but has nerve-shredding sleep habits. My husband of 21 years is worth at least his weight in Godiva, but I'm pretty sure I see my dry...

Read the How to Be Happy article > >

Uterine fibroids. Uterine fibroids are common noncancerous tumors of the muscular wall of the uterus, affecting as many as eight in 10 women by the age of 50. Fibroids more commonly affect women over age 30. They are also more common in African-Americans than whites. Overweight and obese women also have a greater risk of developing fibroids. Hormonal and genetic factors contribute to their growth.

While some fibroids are very small, others grow to weigh several pounds. A woman may have a single fibroid or multiple fibroids. In addition to an enlarged uterus, symptoms of uterine fibroids may include:

  • Feeling of fullness or pressure in the lower abdomen
  • Heavy, painful, and/or long-lasting periods, sometimes with the passage of blood clots
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Constipation
  • Frequent urination
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Pregnancy or delivery complications

If symptoms are severe, treatment may involve a procedure called embolism to cut off the blood supply to the fibroids so that they shrink and eventually die, or surgery to remove the fibroids or the entire uterus (hysterectomy). Other treatments include endometrial ablation (when the inside lining of the uterus is removed) and myolysis (when freezing or an electric current is used to destroy the fibroids). Medications to help control painful periods or for pain may also be used.

The cause of fibroids is not known, but the tumors seem to rely on estrogen to grow. After menopause they often shrink naturally and cause no symptoms.

Adenomyosis. Adenomyosis is thickening of the uterus that occurs when the tissue that normally lines the uterus (endometrium) moves into its muscular outer wall. This can cause a growth called an adenomyoma.

While the cause of adenomyosis is unknown, the condition usually occurs in women older than 30 who have had children. It is more common in women who have had uterine surgery, including a cesarean section.

In addition to uterine enlargement, symptoms may include:

  • Long periods or heavy bleeding
  • Painful periods, which get continually worse
  • Pain during intercourse

Most women have some adenomyosis at the end of their childbearing years. Most don't require treatment, but some need medication to relieve pain. Birth control pills and an intrauterine device (IUD) containing progesterone may help decrease heavy bleeding. Younger women with severe symptoms may need a hysterectomy to relieve symptoms.

Other Causes of an Enlarged Uterus

Other possible causes of an enlarged uterus include:

  • Pelvic congestion syndrome. Rather than a disease, this is a collection of symptoms including chronic dull pain, pressure, and heaviness in the pelvis that worsen after long periods of standing or during or just after sexual intercourse. Although the exact cause is unknown, it is believed to be associated with varicose veins in the abdomen that develop during pregnancy and continue to grow over time. Pain medications or a procedure to block off the affected veins may relieve symptoms. 
  • Contraceptive use. Use of both intrauterine devices (IUDs) and birth control pills can cause swelling or thickening of the uterine walls, resulting in an enlarged uterus.
  • Cancer. In some cases, an enlarged uterus can be a symptom of uterine cancers, including endometrial cancer (affecting the lining of the uterus) and cervical cancer (affecting the lower portion of the uterus where it joins the vagina). Treatment depends on the location, the extent of the cancer, and other factors.
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

hands on abdomen
Test your knowledge.
womans hand on abdomen
Are you ready for baby?
 
birth control pills
Learn about your options.
insomnia
Is it menopause or something else?
 
Couple with troubles
Article
Bone density illustration
VIDEO
 
Young woman being vaccinated
Slideshow
woman holding hand to ear
Slideshow
 

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Blood pressure check
Slideshow
mother and daughter talking
Evaluator
 
intimate couple
Article
puppy eating
Slideshow