Uterine Fibroids and Fertility: What You Need to Know

by
Parsley Health
Author
Medically Reviewed
March 1, 2024

Uterine fibroids are not cancer—but that doesn’t mean they can’t impact your quality of life, and even affect conception and pregnancy.

Causing symptoms like abdominal pain, heavy, painful periods, and fatigue, uterine fibroids occur in 70 percent of pre-menopausal women globally. They’re even more common in the US , where a woman’s risk of developing them by age 50 is estimated to be as high as 75 percent—and higher if that woman is Black.

Wondering if your symptoms could be uterine fibroids? Planning your “fertility year ” around your uterine fibroids? Have a uterine fibroid diagnosis, but want to reduce symptoms without surgery ? Parsley Health's functional medicine approach to uterine fibroids can provide answers and real relief.

Read on to learn more about this health issue and how to take action to start feeling better.

What are uterine fibroids?

Uterine fibroids, also known as myomas, are non-cancerous growths on your uterus. They occur during the years you're able to get pregnant and give birth. While they can vary in size, shape, and number, they are not cancer, almost never turn into cancer, and aren’t linked with a higher risk of other types of cancer in the uterus.

For many people, uterine fibroids don’t cause symptoms at all. A woman with uterine fibroids may not know she has them until her healthcare provider discovers them during a pelvic exam or pregnancy ultrasound. But uterine fibroids can and do cause symptoms (more on that below), and in rare cases can cause serious health complications.

What are the symptoms of uterine fibroids?

The size, location, and number of uterine fibroids you have will influence whether you have symptoms and how severe they are. While they’re often very small, in rare cases they can be large enough to make you look pregnant.

The most common symptoms of uterine fibroids include:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding or painful periods
  • Longer or more frequent periods
  • Pelvic pressure or pain
  • Frequent urination or trouble urinating
  • Growing stomach area
  • Constipation
  • Pain in the stomach area or lower back, or pain during sex

What causes uterine fibroids?

While the cause of uterine fibroids is unknown, here’s what we do know: hormones influence the growth of uterine fibroids, with too much estrogen (AKA estrogen dominance ) being the primary culprit. Since your hormones are deeply impacted by your lifestyle and environment, how you live will say a lot about how your uterine fibroids affect your health and your life.

Below are some risk factors for uterine fibroids:

  • Environment: Environmental exposures are often the root cause of uterine fibroids. Endocrine disrupting chemicals , which are chemicals that can “interfere with our endocrine system causing havoc on our reproductive, immune, and neurological systems,” according to Parsley Health clinician Dr. Tiffany Lester , can cause uterine fibroids to grow. Endocrine disruptors can be found in our everyday products for our homes and bodies. “Some examples are plastic bottles, metal food cans, cosmetics, detergents, and even children’s toys,” says Lester.
  • Genetics: If you have uterine fibroids, it’s quite likely that they run in your family. If your mother had uterine fibroids, your likelihood of also having them is about three times higher than average.
  • Ethnicity: Fibroids are three times more common in Black women than white, Asian, and Latina women. They also occur at an earlier average age and cause more severe symptoms for Black women.
  • Diet: What you eat plays a role in your risk for developing uterine fibroids. Greater consumption of red meat and less consumption of produce and fish are associated with uterine fibroids. Vitamin D deficiency—which is very common, affecting 75 percent of American teens and adults—is also considered a risk factor.
  • Other risk factors: Hypertension and metabolic syndrome are conditions associated with or considered to be risk factors for uterine fibroids.

How can uterine fibroids affect conception pregnancy?

While uterine fibroids can potentially impact fertility and conception, says Parsley Health Nurse Practitioner Ivy Carson , it may only be a factor for 5-10 percent of women with fertility issues. This suggests more of a correlation than causation, she says.

“Some data suggests that uterine fibroids may be the primary cause of infertility in perhaps 1-2.4 percent of cases (and I have personally seen conception happen quickly after surgical removal of larger fibroids),” she reports. “Sometimes they may obstruct fallopian tubes or impact implantation in the uterus if they are significantly impacting the uterine lining. A transvaginal/pelvic ultrasound should always be part of the workup if someone is struggling to conceive.”

Fibroids don’t usually grow in pregnancy, but they may sometimes cause discomfort or slightly increase the chance of needing a cesarean (C-section).

How can I treat my uterine fibroids?

“It is possible to significantly reduce or eliminate small to moderate fibroids,” says Carson. “3-6 months is a realistic timeframe to begin seeing symptomatic improvements. Larger fibroids may necessitate surgical removal.”

Conventional treatment of uterine fibroids typically involves hormonal birth control , medication, or surgery, including hysterectomy—but none of these approaches tackle the root cause of uterine fibroids. Even with surgery to remove uterine fibroids, which is called a myomectomy, they can often come back.

So what can you do if you want to prevent a recurrence of uterine fibroids after surgery, slow the development of fibroids you already have, or just try to ease your symptoms? Here are some natural treatments for uterine fibroids you can do on your own:

Support balanced hormones with your diet.

An unhealthy gut microbiome can throw off your hormones, potentially leading to estrogen dominance and more symptoms from uterine fibroids. Support a healthy gut microbiome with the following foods:

  • Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and plant-based yogurt.
  • Fiber -rich foods like beans, berries, gluten -free grains, fresh fibrous veggies (with their skins on) like acorn squash or collard greens, and nuts and seeds.
  • Dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, arugula, and baby greens.
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage
  • Lignan-rich foods like flaxseeds support estrogen metabolism, says Carson.
  • Anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like parsley (ahem), garlic, cilantro, and turmeric.

Focus on a varied, plant-based diet while avoiding inflammatory foods like alcohol , sugar , gluten, and dairy .

Manage environmental risk factors.

Man-made estrogens, or endocrine disruptors , found in many common health, cleaning, and beauty products can contribute to estrogen dominance. They can affect your baby, too: even fetal exposure to synthetic estrogens increases the risk of developing uterine fibroids. Use non-stick cookware and visit the Environmental Working Group to find healthier alternatives to personal care products.

Still need help?

If you and your doctor determine surgery may be an appropriate option for you, they can also guide you through recovery and help you prevent future recurrences of uterine fibroids. If you’re looking to try lifestyle changes first, Parsley Health has a personalized program to treat uterine fibroids.

When you join Parsley, your dedicated medical team will create a plan that meets you where you are—helping you update your nutrition and fitness regimen while helping you rest, de-stress, and self-care better so you can reduce uterine fibroid symptoms and keep your health goals on track.

Ready to take control of your reproductive health? Join now or schedule a free call  to learn more about Parsley, how to use insurance , and how we can personalize your health journey.

by
Parsley Health
Author

Parsley Health is the doctor that helps you live healthier, longer, by treating the root cause of symptoms and conditions. Our medical teams—staffed by leading clinicians and health coaches—spend more time with you, order the right tests, and prescribe food, sleep and movement alongside medications so you can get better—and feel better.

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