Fibroids in the Stomach: Can Fibroids Cause a Belly Pooch?

A common problem that we see at the Atlanta Fibroid Center is the woman who looks pregnant but is not. She may exercise frequently, but she can’t lose the bulge in her lower abdomen.

What Can Cause A “Belly Pooch”?

Abdominal swelling or distension can be due to a varied number of medical conditions. The patient often reports feeling bloated, which is a buildup of gas in the gastrointestinal system. This can be digestive in nature due to an increase in gas-producing foods (high-fiber, beans, cabbage, etc.), malabsorption or intolerance of certain food substances, or an interruption in normal bowel function such as gastrointestinal illness or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). On rare occasions, this distension is due to an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, which warrants prompt attention by a physician.

How Can Fibroids Cause a Belly Pooch?

Fibroids are a very common cause of abdominal enlargement that is often accompanied by bloating. This bloating is cyclic and can begin right before the menstrual cycle but will subside after the menstrual cycle.

A woman often reports that she can see the difference in size each month, particularly when lying on her back. Clothes often fit very tight or not at all during this time.

How Can Fibroids Make Women Look Pregnant?

As the uterus enlarges, it will start to make a woman look pregnant.

A simplified estimate of uterine size based on a similar-sized pregnancy: the length of the uterus is equal to the number of weeks of pregnancy.  For example, a 16-cm-long uterus is about 16 weeks (4 months) of pregnancy.

A woman with an enlarging uterus may not know why this is occurring and may start taking pregnancy tests, which will be negative.

MRI image of the healthy uterus
Here is an example of what a normal-sized uterus looks like
MRI Allows to Diagnose Uterine Fibroids
This is what a uterus with fibroids looks like

Tell-Tale Signs That You Have Uterine Fibroids

If you are experiencing an enlarging abdomen and weight gain despite all efforts, you may have uterine fibroids.

Even women who exercise frequently will notice this “stubborn area” that continues to make their belly big no matter how much exercise she does. People may even ask them, “When is the baby due?” which is obviously embarrassing for all concerned.

As the belly enlarges due to increasing fibroid growth, there is often added weight gain and possibly stomach deformation. This is particularly discouraging to the woman who is eating right and exercising.

Anemia Caused By Growing Fibroids Can Compound Weight Gain

This weight gain can accelerate if the patient becomes anemic and the associated fatigue decreases or eliminates exercise, or if she becomes disheartened by a perceived lack of results.

Frequent Urination, Especially At Night, May Signal The Presence Of Fibroids

It may not be discovered as fibroids until this “poochy belly” starts causing symptoms. These symptoms will be determined based on the location of fibroids in her uterus.  Anterior fibroids are likely to cause increased urinary frequency and waking up at night to urinate (nocturia), as the bladder sits right in front of the uterus. These fibroids may even cause the woman to leak urine on occasion due to the increased pressure in the bladder.

These symptoms may be initially brushed off by the patient and attributed to increasing age. If you’re waking up multiple times a night to urinate, this should be investigated.

Can You Feel Fibroids Through Your Stomach?

Fibroids that are in the front of the uterus are the most likely to be felt by a woman. Sometimes, fibroids make your stomach feel hard, and a woman may notice something hard and firm to the touch, which is not something she has felt before.

Do You Have These Symptoms of Fibroids?

Fibroids in the central part of the uterus next to the cavity are the ones that will cause heavy bleeding. If a woman has these fibroids, known as submucosal fibroids, they will present much earlier than women who have fibroids on the outer part of the uterus (subserosal) which cause bulk-related symptoms (i.e. abdominal pain or pressure, bloating, increased urinary frequency, etc.).

If you have an enlarging belly, fibroid symptoms, or weight gain that is unexplained and you believe it is due to fibroids, make an appointment today with the leaders in the non-surgical treatment of uterine fibroids, Dr. John Lipman and the staff of the Atlanta Fibroid Center.

Read more