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Muscles on a stalk?! (Learn more about uterine fibroids)

Woman holding a model of a uterus which has grey and black tumours (fibroids)
Woman holding a model of a uterus which has grey and black tumours (fibroids)

What are you talking about? What are uterine fibroids? 

They are benign tumours in or on the muscle wall of the uterus.

How common are uterine fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are very common (picture Oprah Winfrey shouting to her audience, ‘you get a fibroid, and you get a fibroid!’) 

Up to 70% of people with a uterus will have fibroids in their lifetime. Usually fibroids come along in the ‘reproductive years’ - when you start getting your period up to when you reach menopause.  After menopause, fibroids usually shrink and may disappear altogether. 

What does that mean?

Basically, they are a lump made of muscle cells and connective tissue that grow in the wall of the uterus. They aren’t cancerous and don’t increase the risk of uterine cancer – so they aren’t dangerous in that way. 

But they can cause pain, bleeding and make it hard to get pregnant – though it’s good to remember that plenty of folk with fibroids do have good fertility and have good pregnancies!

There are different types of fibroids

Fibroids can grow on the outside, in the wall of, and inside the uterus. Some can even grow on a stalk!

Fibroids can be seriously tiny or seriously big! Anywhere between the size of a grain of rice to the size of a rock melon.

So how do I know if I have uterine fibroids? 

The only way to know for sure that you have a uterine fibroid is through testing that is organised by a doctor. 

But the first clues can often be the symptoms of uterine fibroids – and these can be disruptive, painful and make it hard to live your life to the fullest! If you have these symptoms go to a GP for help and further testing. 

  • heavy or long periods
  • painful periods 
  • iron deficiency, due to heavy periods – this might make you feel tired or dizzy 
  • pain during sex
  • feeling heaviness or pressure in the back, bowel and bladder
  • feeling like you haven’t emptied your bladder or bowel
  • weeing a lot
  • swelling in your lower abdomen.

I have some of these symptoms – who can help me? 

Your regular GP can organise a referral to a gynecologist. Gynecologists are doctors that specialise in the health of the vagina, vulva, uterus, and ovaries. 

How are fibroids diagnosed?

Fibroids can be diagnosed in a few different ways. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor might suggest an ultrasound, an MRI. A gynaecologist can also undertake 

  • hysteroscope (general anaesthetic a thin telescope shows the inside of your uterus
  • a laparoscopy. While under general anaesthetic a thin telescope goes into your belly button to see your pelvic organs.

I want to get pregnant, but I have symptoms of fibroids. What should I do? 

First of all, most folk who have fibroids also have normal fertility! Yay! 

However, if you’ve been trying to get pregnant for 12 months, or if you’re 35 and over and you’re trying to get pregnant for 6 months have a conversation with your GP.

Fibroids can affect fertility and pregnancy, depending on their size and location. Fibroids may also cause miscarriage or early labour. 

So if you want to have a baby but you have some of the symptoms, it’s a good idea to talk to a GP. 

If I have fibroids that are causing me problems, how can they be treated?

There are both medical treatments and surgical treatments for fibroids. Your GP or gynaecologist can talk about what options are best for you. 


Want to read more? Check out this online comic – by Alanna Okun and Aude White about the healing journey after surgery on a uterine fibroid. 



Health Direct, Uterine fibroids.  (2024),look%20at%20your%20reproductive%20organs

Better Health Channel. Fibroids. (2024). 

Pregnancy, Birth and Baby. Fibroids and Fertility. (2024).,fibroid%20before%20a%20planned%20operation