Uterine fibroids can turn sex into pain, both literally and figuratively.
This benign tumor of the uterus is made up of smooth muscle and fibrous tissue and therefore is very firm to the touch. It can enlarge a woman’s belly and make her look pregnant. And besides the physical discomfort during sex, caused by the growth of the neoplasm, the woman feels unattractive for her partner, closes from him mentally.
Fibroids cause symptoms based on where they are located in the uterus.
Those that are located in the center of the uterus along the lining (submucosal) will cause heavy periods; those along the outer surface (subserosal) will push on pelvic nerves to cause pain or other bulk-related symptoms (exs. increased urinary frequency, nocturia).
Those that lie in the muscle in between the submucosal and subserosal regions (intramural) can cause either bleeding or pain or both depending on which way they grow (i.e. inwardly or outwardly).
Why Fibroids and Sex Can Be Difficult
Given these fibroid facts, it’s not hard to understand that fibroids and sex can be a very difficult mix.
If fibroids are located near the cervix they can cause pain to such a degree that a woman will avoid certain sexual positions or abstain from sex altogether. They may also trigger bleeding after sex.
Fibroids that enlarge a woman’s belly may result in a negative body image and she may lose the desire to engage in sex. For many women however, it is the amount and duration of the heavy periods that are the most significant impediment to having sex.
The menstrual may last days to weeks with episodes of blood gushing or flooding out of her body. Accidents in blood are common, and women often wear multiple pads and even adult diapers to try to manage these horribly heavy periods. It is easy to understand why these women wouldn’t feel very sexual or want to engage in sexual relations.
Finally, sex is exercise. For many women the amount of blood loss each month leads to a deficit in both iron and hemoglobin. The medical term for this is called anemia.
Hemoglobin carries oxygen throughout our body. When a woman is anemic, it causes fatigue and lethargy. She may get migraine-like headaches. Women with significant anemia can barely get through the day. Therefore, sex with fibroids becomes an impossible task for them.
Adding exercise (either a traditional exercise workout or sex) to this is just not likely to happen. The fallout from this can be significant. This can impact a woman psychologically. She may not only have an enlarged uterus, but also be gaining additional weight from lack of exercise.
This may take a toll on her emotionally as well as, sadness from not being willing or able to fulfill her responsibility in her partner’s sexual needs. This can obviously place a significant strain on any relationship or marriage.
Now What? How Fibroids Affect Your Sex Life
Is there anything that can be done for these women? How to make sex with fibroids possible? If the main issue is pain with intercourse (dyspareunia), changing the angle of penetration may help.
This can be done by changing the angle of the tilt of the woman’s pelvis with the help of a pillow or two underneath her buttocks or by trying a different position.
If the main issue is bleeding, there are a number of strategies that can be tried, but ultimately treating the underlying problem (i.e. the fibroids) will likely be necessary.
Fibroids grow with hormones (in particular estrogen). Therefore one can employ an anti-estrogen approach to try to improve the bleeding. While hormones are pervasive in the food (and even water) supply, women can improve bleeding symptoms by limiting or avoiding red meat, non-organic chicken, or dairy.
There are also a number of natural remedies that can be useful including green tea, chasteberry, and milk thistle. Lastly, supplementation with vitamin D (if level is low) is a simple way that has been shown to impede progression of fibroids.
While the natural remedies and dietary changes can certainly help a woman’s symptoms, a number of women will need a solution that will directly treat the fibroids.
The “solution” that is often given to these women is hardly a solution at all and that’s surgery (typically a hysterectomy). Fibroids are the most common reason why women in the US undergo a hysterectomy and the average age of these women is less than 40 years.
Fibroids And Sex: How Do Fibroids Affect Sex and Intimacy?
While hysterectomy ends the suffering these women are experiencing, it only trades one set of problems for another set. With hysterectomy there is a significant operative complication rate (~30%).
While the most common are related to intraoperative and postoperative bleeding, there are more sinister complications like surgical adhesions which often cause symptoms down the road (exs. bowel obstructions, pelvic pain, infertility).
Inadvertant nicking of the bowel, bladder, or ureter during surgery often leads to a call to the Interventional Radiologist to divert the urine outside the body in to a bag or drain a pelvic abscess with a catheter.
Hysterectomy can affect a woman psychologically like a man who has been castrated. It can affect her sexually (exs. loss of libido, loss of orgasm).
Finally, removing the enlarged uterus surgically can weaken the pelvic floor muscles causing these women to leak urine (i.e. incontinence). There is another way out so that fibroids and sex are no longer a problem.
Fibroids and Sex | When It Comes to Fibroids, You Have Options
There is a much better solution to all of this. One in which treats all of the woman’s fibroids and relieves all of the fibroid symptoms. This solution does not require any surgery whatsoever and is performed as an outpatient. The procedure is called Uterine Fibroid Embolization or UFE and is performed by an Interventional Radiologist.
These physicians are experts in image-guided targeted treatments all over the body. Patients that undergo UFE are literally transformed. After UFE they get their life back. They are no longer tied to their menstrual.
The periods become light and normal. No more gushing, flooding, or passage of clots. Patients that could never consider using tampons in the past can now use them or even just a panty liner. The anemia goes away and they have a renewed energy they haven’t seen in years.
They can exercise and resume sexual relations again. They look and feel so much better and wonder why they weren’t told about UFE before.
If you’re suffering with fibroids and want your life and your sexy back, Atlanta Fibroid Center will be happy to help you. For more information call 770-953-2600 and schedule your appointment today.