You may not know you have uterine fibroids because they often cause no symptoms. If you do have fibroids that are giving you problems, it may be because of where they are, how many you have, or how big they are.
These noncancerous tumors, made of tissue and muscle, can be as small as a pea or larger than a grapefruit. They can grow outside or within the wall of your uterus, or inside the uterus. You can have many uterine fibroids of different sizes.
Small fibroids often don't have any symptoms. Larger ones can cause:
- Heavy, long, or painful periods. You could soak through a pad in less than an hour or pass blood clots. You might also notice bleeding between periods. Sometimes the bleeding is bad enough to cause anemia.
- Discomfort in your lower belly. This might feel like pressure, fullness, or heaviness. You could have trouble bending forward or lying on your stomach.
- Pain in your lower belly. Less commonly, some people have sharp pain in one particular spot. This usually gets better in 2-4 weeks.
- Bloating. Your belly may look swollen, like you're pregnant.
- Back pain. This can happen when fibroids press against nerves and muscles in your lower back.
- Painful sex. You might notice pain or discomfort only in certain sex positions, or only during certain stages of your menstrual cycle. Let your doctor know if sex is painful for you.
- Problems peeing. You might need to pee often, and even wake up during the night to pee. You could also have trouble emptying your bladder all the way.
- Pressure in your rectum. You might feel like you need to poop even when you don't. You could also have pain when you poop, or constipation.
- A vaginal discharge that lasts a long time
See your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.
What Does Uterine Fibroid Pain Feel Like?
Pain or discomfort from fibroids can feel different for different people. Some of the discomfort is caused by the weight of the fibroids themselves. You might have dull pain or a feeling of pressure in your lower belly that lasts for a long time and doesn't seem to start in any particular place. Some people think it's similar to the pressure you feel during pregnancy.
Sometimes, you could feel a sharp, stabbing type of pain. This happens when a fibroid goes through a process called degeneration (which means it loses its blood supply) or when it presses on nearby structures like your cervix. This pain feels like it's coming from a certain area. You could also feel a sharp pain if you have fibroids while you're pregnant. This pain won't hurt your baby. But call your doctor anytime you have pain in your back or belly area during pregnancy.
Fibroids can lead to a burning or throbbing feeling when you have sex. You might have painful cramps during and after your period. You could have a burning or stinging pain when you try to poop.
Fibroids may also be one cause of low back pain. It's rare, but fibroids have also been linked to pain that shoots from the buttocks down the legs, similar to sciatica.
Do Uterine Fibroids Cause Weight Gain?
Fibroids don't change your metabolism or otherwise cause your body to put on fat. A very large fibroid could weigh up to about 5 pounds and increase your body weight by that amount. But they don't usually get this big.
A fibroid pushing into your belly area could can cause bloating or swelling, which could make it look like you've gained weight.
Fibroid Symptoms After Menopause
Fibroids don't go away after you go through menopause. But they usually stop growing, since you no longer have as much of the female hormones that drive their growth.
You won't have period-related fibroid issues like cramps or heavy bleeding after menopause. You could still have other symptoms, like discomfort and bloating. But many people no longer have fibroid symptoms at all.
It's very rare for new fibroids to grow after menopause.
When to See Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you have any of the following issues:
- Long-lasting or constant pelvic pain
- A hard time emptying your bladder
- You can't control your urine flow
- Very heavy, painful periods
- A lump or mass in your belly area
- Period-like bleeding after menopause
Emergency Fibroid Symptoms
It's not common, but you could need emergency treatment with fibroids. Get medical care right away if you have:
- Sudden sharp pain in your belly that doesn't respond to pain medication.
- Very heavy vaginal bleeding along with symptoms like weakness, intense fatigue, and lightheadedness. Too much bleeding can cause anemia, which is when you don't have enough healthy red blood cells to keep your tissues well-supplied with oxygen.