Fibroids

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Pelvic Health

Benign fibroid tumors of the uterus (also called myomas) are present in 30–50 percent of women in the United States. They occur in women of all races and backgrounds, but they are more common in women of African–American or Caribbean descent. Fibroids arise from the smooth muscle and connective tissue of the uterine muscle itself. They can form on the inside or outside of the uterus; above, below or on the side of it. Though they can occur in women as young as their late teens or early twenties, they are most often diagnosed when a woman is in her thirties or forties. Lepine1 During pregnancy, preexisting fibroids can grow rapidly and can sometimes cause uterine contractions that can result in premature delivery. The good news is most fibroids don’t cause symptoms, don’t require any fancy treatment, and almost never require a hysterectomy, despite what you may have heard.

Listen to Your Body

Most women with fibroids don’t even know they have one until their doctor discovers it during an annual pelvic exam. Of course, depending upon the size, number, and location of the fibroid, some women experience pain, heavy bleeding, or pressure. If the fibroid is large, 10 cm. or greater, the lower abdomen can swell slightly and make it appear that a woman is a few months pregnant.

Whether a fibroid is symptomatic has to do with its size and location within the uterus. Those that are located in the muscle wall of the uterus just under the surface (subserosal) may not be symptomatic. But those growing into the uterine lining itself (submucosal) often cause heavy or irregular bleeding. Women with both fibroids and endometriosis may experience menstrual cramps, pelvic pain, or both. A fibroid may start to degenerate if it outgrows its blood supply, causing the nerves at the center of the fibroid to register a lack of oxygen as pain, in the same way that frostbitten toes do. Sometimes the positioning of the fibroid causes symptoms by pushing on another organ, such as the rectum or the bladder, leading to a sensation of pressure or fullness in the rectum, lower back, or abdomen. A fibroid’s positioning can also interfere with pregnancy in some cases.

What Causes This

Fibroid growth is stimulated by estrogen, and in women with estrogen dominance, they can grow quite quickly and become quite large, especially during perimenopause. The baseline energetic patterns that result in fibroids are related to blockage and stagnation of the energy of the second emotional center. Caroline Myss, Ph.D., teaches that fibroid tumors represent our creativity that has never been birthed. Fibroids may also result when we are flowing life energy into dead end jobs or relationships we have outgrown. Fibroids are often associated with conflicts about creativity, reproduction, and relationships.

If you have fibroids, ask yourself the following questions: What are the creations within me that I want to put out in the world before I’m no longer here? If anything at all were possible, what would my life look like? If I had six months to live, what relationships would I release from my life immediately? What relationships would I give more of my time and attention to? What relationships truly feed and nourish me? Which ones drain my energy? Write your answers in a journal. Discuss them with supportive friends. Deep within you, you have all the answers you need. You just need to be open to hearing them.

Healing Alternatives

One effective way of treating fibroids is through hormones. Hormonal treatments may include bioidentical progesterone or low-dose oral contraceptive pills, which can smooth out the estrogen dominance that so often causes fibroids to grow or become symptomatic. GnRH agonists, such as Lupron or Synarel, can also be used to shrink fibroids and are sometimes effective as alternatives to surgery.

Fibroids that cause heavy bleeding can be treated through a number of surgical options. Endometrial ablation causes destruction of the uterine lining by heat, laser, or other techniques. It results in the cessation of menstruation and infertility. Myomectomy is a surgical procedure in which fibroid tumors are removed, but the uterus is repaired and left in place. Small fibroids can be removed through laparoscopic surgery or sometimes by surgical removal through the vagina (hysteroscopic surgery). Larger ones may require more extensive abdominal surgery or uterine artery embolization, a catheterization procedure that blocks blood flow and causes them to shrink.

A new treatment for fibroids called ExAblate combines MRI imaging to map out uterine fibroids followed by high-intensity, focused ultrasound that heats up and destroys fibroid tissue. The procedure is done on an outpatient basis and is noninvasive, leaving the uterus and ovaries intact. It involves lying on your abdomen in an MRI tube for up to three hours while ultrasound waves heat up and destroy the uterine tissue. Side effects may include blisters on the abdominal skin, cramping, nausea, and some pain that can be managed with over-the-counter medication. Studies show that ExAblate successfully reduces fibroid symptoms in about 70 percent of women, but that 20 percent will require additional surgery within a year. Note: Do not use ExAblate if you want to get pregnant because not enough data is available to determine what happens to the uterine wall and lining following the procedure.

Hysterectomy is probably the option most commonly offered to American women who have fibroids, but one which deserves careful consideration. Hysterectomy should be the last resort, reserved for those women who, in addition to their fibroids, also have intractable bleeding or pain problems that simply have not responded to other measures. When this is the case, hysterectomy can be a real blessing, dramatically enhancing the quality of a woman’s life.

Spiritual and Holistic Options

The first thing to consider is that a fibroid may not need to be treated. A watch-and-wait attitude is not unreasonable in many cases; you can live with fibroids for years with no adverse health consequences if they are not bothering you. (And the falling estrogen levels that come in late perimenopause and menopause often shrink fibroids considerably.) There are times, however, when you may wish to seek treatment for a fibroid. You may not want to live with a growth that makes you look pregnant, or you may want to take action if your symptoms include pain, heavy bleeding, cramping, or backache.

Dietary change is the mainstay of my treatment approach for women interested in alternatives to drugs and surgery. Since the uterus is estrogen–sensitive, any dietary or alternative approach that counteracts estrogen dominance often works for fibroids. Eating a diet high in protein and healthy fats and low in high-glycemic carbohydrates such as sugar and starch can help. “White” foods like sugar and starch increase insulin, which changes the way estrogen is metabolized, creating compounds that are more likely to cause cellular inflammation and fibroid symptoms, including enhanced growth of existing fibroids. (Further evidence of the diet-estrogen-fibroid connection is the fact that fibroids are more common in overweight women.)

Nearly all women can benefit from taking phytoestrogens—plant-based hormones found in soy and flaxseed. Not only are phytoestrogens a safe alternative to synthetic hormones, these phytoestrogen-rich foods decrease the effects of estrogen levels naturally by blocking the estrogen receptors on the cells in fibroids and other estrogen-sensitive tissues. Studies have shown that eating soy and flax helps the body produce smaller amounts of unhealthy estrogens. Flaxseed is high in both fiber and omega-3 fats, which help reduce inflammation and tumor growth throughout the body and rid the body of toxins, including excess estrogen.

A wide variety of herbs help balance estrogen levels naturally. These include chasteberry, dong quai, and black cohosh—all of which have been used for centuries for various gynecological conditions. Other effective alternatives include weight loss, aerobic exercise, tai chi, meditation, acupuncture, castor oil packs, polarity therapy, homeopathic medicine, and massage.

A relatively new therapy known as NAET (Nambudripad Allergy Elimination Technique) has been used to treat fibroids and a wide variety of other illnesses as well. NAET was developed by Devi Nambudripad, an acupuncturist and chiropractor who had very severe allergies herself. It is based on the premise that allergies (and other illnesses such as fibroids) are the result of allergic and emotional reactions that are originally programmed in both the brain and body simultaneously. Using a process known as kinesiology (muscle testing), the NAET practitioner pinpoints the offending allergens and the accompanying emotional pattern. Then, using specific acupuncture or acupuncture points, these patterns are cleared from the body. The philosophical basis for this technique makes a great deal of sense, and I recommend it if used by a well-trained practitioner.

Learn More — Additional Resources

References

  1. Lepine, L. A., et al. (1997). Hysterectomy surveillance — United States, 1980–1993. MMWR, 46, 1–15.

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.

Comments

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  1. Liz
    1 week ago

    Thank you so much, for all the information. I would like to know if fenugreek is good to shrink fibroid or in general, to be taken by women with fibroids.
    Thank you,

  2. Alysia
    2 months ago

    I began taking estradiol and progesterone (prescribed by my GYNO) for 5 months now. I am 51 years old and have been having periods twice per month for the past few years. My GYNO prescribed these hormones to help combat this issue which it has. He also told me I have uterine fibroids about a year ago.
    I just started having a very full feeling in my pelvic area and sharp vaginal pains intermittently. My abdomen also seems swollen. I feel very bloated as well.

    My question is, is the estradiol causing my fibroids to grow causing this feeling in my pelvic area?

    I’m so worried and stopped taking the estradiol yesterday.

  3. Mara
    3 months ago

    I had the ufe done….
    Feeling great, bloating gone, no more pain, or pressure in my bladder. This procedure is a blessing, my personal opinion

  4. Sarah Woodhouse
    3 months ago

    I was diagnosed with 2 medium sized fibroids which placed an enormous pressure on my bladder. I was advised by 3 different doctors to undergo surgery to remove these fibroids as I was told that there was nothing I could do to shrink or stop their growth.

    However, I researched some natural remedies and went to my local health store and bought the herbs and vitamins and the other more basic ingredients I needed.

    After 7 days I didn’t see any change so I thought ‘here we go again’. But it wasn’t another disappointment. By the end of the 6th week on a bright Monday morning, all the pain and the awful bloated feeling just stopped.

    I’m thrilled to report that my last ultrasound showed that both my fibroid tumors had shrunk by 80%. My periods are much more consistent now, and I hardly experience any pain.

    In case you’re wondering, this website contains some of the remedies that helped me:

    http://www.journalofnaturalhealth.com/fibroids

    Hope it helps anyone reading this!

    Name:Sarah Woodhouse
    Email:sarah.woodhouse@mail.com

    URL: http://www.journalofnaturalhealth.com/fibroids

  5. Sarah Woodhouse
    3 months ago

    I was diagnosed with 2 medium sized fibroids which placed an enormous pressure on my bladder. I was advised by 3 different doctors to undergo surgery to remove these fibroids as I was told that there was nothing I could do to shrink or stop their growth.

    However, I researched some natural remedies and went to my local health store and bought the herbs and vitamins and the other more basic ingredients I needed.

    After 7 days I didn’t see any change so I thought ‘here we go again’. But it wasn’t another disappointment. By the end of the 6th week on a bright Monday morning, all the pain and the awful bloated feeling just stopped.

    I’m thrilled to report that my last ultrasound showed that both my fibroid tumors had shrunk by 80%. My periods are much more consistent now, and I hardly experience any pain.

    In case you’re wondering, this website contains some of the remedies that helped me:

    http://www.journalofnaturalhealth.com/fibroids

    Hope it helps anyone reading this!

  6. Mara
    5 months ago

    I am 43 years old with a fibroid of a size of an orange. I am so happy that I can keep my uterus, there’s options. Hysterectomy should be the last resort.
    Uterine fibroid Embolization it’s a blessing for me…. Thank you for all the Physicians that are performing this procedure

  7. Mara
    5 months ago

    I’m having this procedure done in a few weeks. Ihave an appointment already, and I’m so excited to be done with these fibroids that are making my life so miserable and bleeding so much it’s making me a prisoner in my own home, I can’t leave my house anymore

  8. Amy Johnson
    7 months ago

    I was diagnosed with a 5cm fibroid that has metastasized and the only option I was given was hysterectomy. I have since purchased your book, Woman’s Bodies, Woman’s Wisdom. What a fantastic resource! I want to thank you for writing such an insightful encyclopedia of wisdom, options and extensive guide to physical and emotional healing. Truly a blessing!

  9. livin
    7 months ago

    “fibroids in black women”

    i wanted to thank you for the reference to the phenomena in black women, from North America and the Carribbean. i visited a doctor today to find out about this pain and heavily bleeding and after the ultra sound results of my pelvic area, the doctor said that i have about 4 growths. the doctor spoke fast and i had no piece of paper and pen to write this down as a black women who is very uncomfortable with the bio-medical model of medicine. i will be calling the doctors office to send me a copy of that test so i can investigate this stuff myself as well.

    second, i asked this doctor what estrogen was, cause i have no idea what these terms mean and have been very healthy and tough, dealing with economic and social externalities that contribute to my stress. i’ve also been in sport which i find i an excellent way to keep the mind, body and core, and environment in check and the sport is masters-athletics, the league that encourages participation from persons 30 and up, to even over 100 years old.

    third, i want to thank you for your whole-istic approach because that is someting i find is lacking in western medicine, there is a need to find out what is going on in a person’s environment, and many bio-medically trained persons can’t even begin to think about that. they should be asking questions such as: are they experiencing dirty air, dirty water, racism, sexism? and so on, and how does that trigger fibroids in black women?. i don’t want anyone cutting me. i was speaking with a black woman from west africa and she said she took moringa leaf powder and it shrunk the fibroids.

    so i have to read more. thank you so much for mentioning the bit about black women. i noticed yours was the only site to even mention women from the carribbean, in my preliminary research on the net, that will also take me to also my own university library, to eliminate this grown.

    thank you again for mentioning us- black women also from the carribbean.
    best.
    🙂

  10. Karmen
    8 months ago

    Hello Dr.Northrup,

    I need help regarding uterine artery embolization. My GYNO has recommended to have this procedure but I haven’t decided yet because I wasn’t sure if the plastic beads that are inserted in my veins are safe and for how long they will be just sitting in my body.
    Also I wanted to know if the fibroid dies will it just sit in my body?is that safe?Or will it come out at all times.

    Thank you in advance for your answer : )

    Karmen

  11. Bridgette York
    11 months ago

    Hello, Dr Northrup , from London. I started the Fibroid Network in London, after I discovered I had a large number of Fibroids. I was inspired by your book Womens Bodies , Womens Wisdom & encouraged all of my friends to get it , because I loved the broad range of info from Natural to Medical on Fibroids & many other conditions and your comforting words to inspire us.

    I then set up a Fibroid Support group, called Fibroid Network , we help 1,000s of women find alternatives to hysterectomy. I still hoped for a family. Your story gave me hope. I eventually had a myomectomy. They removed an 11b fibroid , 22cm high , 33cm diametre +3 smaller ones. I dropped 3 sizes after surgery .

    I later went on to become a Twin mum at 40, naturally. My beautiful twin girls are 3 & very healthy. I did have 3 very small fibroids during the pregnancy, but they did not cause any issues with the twins. The twins had plenty of room to manoeuvre & we could see them playing with each other on the scans. I really appreciate that you have always provided all the available natural & medical options in your publications so we women can make an informed choice about treatment, even as far away as the UK. We will definitely be recommending you on our new updated site.

    Thank You again Bridgette York
    http://www.fibroid.network

    1. livin
      7 months ago

      “twins at 40”

      i think that is just beautiful. i am 43 and would like to have more children after i get some career stuff out of the way. thank you for sharing. there is hope.

      best,
      🙂

    2. Pauline
      6 months ago

      Dear Bridget, bonjour from France,

      I woke up desperate this morning. We moved twice the last two years and I finally succeeded in finding a new gyno. I’ve seen him a couple of days ago and he just killed the last tiny, trembling ray of light and hope I had for a family.

      The words were hard, the tone harsh, the attitude condescending and the examination just… awful. I “have to admit it is not going to happen”, it is “a total illusion” and, “should it miraculously happen”, then he “would not wish to be the OB/GYN taking care of me during that pregnancy: the fibroids would grow with the baby, any scanning would be too difficult and I would suffocate due to my “enormous size”. I stepped out feeling ashamed and abused.

      This morning I woke up ready to sign for the hysterectomy. Then I found this website, then I read this article and your post.

      Many thanks. I will continue exploring holistic options, the family karma and root cause for my fibroids, eat organic food and be careful with estrogens. And continue making conscious choices.

      Thanks a lot.

      Pauline

    3. Arelys Govin
      6 months ago

      Bridgette:
      I’m so glad I came across with this Web and found out about your experience. Thank you for sharing!!! I lost a 17 weeks pregnancy last September because of fibroids. I just a myomectomy a month ago and I had 11 fibriods taken out, ranging from 2 to 9 cm. I still have 3 small ones left and I’m very concern about those preventing me from having a baby. You have giving me hope when I’m so skeptical. Thank you again for sharing a the work you do to help other women. God Bless you, even more!!!!!
      Arelys Govin

    4. Lore
      6 months ago

      Hello i have multiple fibroids in the wall of the uterus but the larger one measures 10.5cm im just scared and dont know what will happend or whats next im waiting to go to a ob gyn lets see what they will do…3 years ago i lost my baby i was 6 wks pregnant and since then i cant get pregnant again im 42 yrs old….your story is beautiful blessings to you and your twins.

  12. Danielle
    11 months ago

    Take Agnus castus tablets

  13. Danielle
    11 months ago

    shrink the fibroid. I now only eat organic food, less meat, lots of water, juicing carrot, cucumber, lemon, raw beetroot, ginger root and watermelon. Take Angus cactus tablets, vitamin c and b complex, milk thistle, rest and sleep well (drink camomile tea at bedtime to aid sleeping). Drink green tea during daytime to help flush out toxins from the liver. Only eat small portions of organic meat and poultry. Non organic meats are full of esteogen which feeds fibroids.

  14. Amy Bielawski
    1 year ago

    I too have a uterus full of fibroids and have been asked “how far along I am”. Not only is it embarrassing, but they sit on my bladder and seem to cause more urgency. I am post menopausal and the doctors that I’ve spoken to will only take them out along with the uterus. I really don’t want to go that route, but not sure what else to do. One of the fibroids is the size of a grapefruit and the last doc said she would go in to push them out of the vagina. Getting cut open or the other both sound scary.

    The bloat in my abdomen feels so heavy sometimes that I wonder if there is something wrong and maybe they do need to go.

    However the Health Mktplace has erroneously taken my tax credit away, so I am now without insurance, again.

    Any help with this and more forward thinking docs that are HMOx would be greatly appreciated. Doctor Northrup, I need to see you!!!!

    1. Corrina McFarlane
      11 months ago

      Dear Amy, I also felt very strongly that cutting out my uterus was not the best response/option! I transcribed my journal of this mega-journey for well-being (healing) into a book ‘Guest At the Mouth of the Womb’. You can find it on Amazon.

  15. Colleen
    1 year ago

    I have 3 symptomatic 3cm submucousal fibroids. I’m 37. I’m wondering if you’ve ever had women with this type of fibroid conceive and have a healthy pregnancy/delivery without undergoing surgery to remove the fibroids??

  16. Deb
    1 year ago

    I am 53 with several uterine fibroids, which are to numerous and large to treat with less invasive techniques. According to my gyn MD, my only surgical option at this point is a hysterectomy, which I’m reluctant to pursue. Mine make me about 6 months “pregnant” and every month my body seems to be trying to “give birth” to them. UGH. I keep thinking, “I’m so close to menopause”… but maybe I’m not. I have regular, montly periods. VERY heavy and painful, sometimes excruciatingly so. I am at my wit’s end. I am overweight by probably 50 pounds, which I know doesn’t help, but I’ve changed my diet substantially (cutting out sugar, most specifically) Still not getting much relief. I’ve tried DIM detox supplement, along with other natural remedies, herbal tea, lymphatic system tinctures, apple cider vinegar and chiropractic. At this point, I’ve been throwing lots of stuff at the wall, in hopes of finding some relief. I’m about ready to bite the bullet and just go for the hysterectomy. I have not had my hormones checked in a while, so maybe I should do that before making any decisions, just to see if I’m anywhere near menopause, yet. I can’t see going throught the monthly onslaught for much longer. It’s a nightmare.

  17. SUZIE
    1 year ago

    I AM 59 YEARS YOUNG WITH ENHANCED GROWTH OF EXISTING FIBROIDS AND GROWTH OF NEW FIBROIDS. I WEIGH 140 POUNDS WITH A RELATIVELY FLAT ABDOMEN. MY FIBROIDS HAVE NOT SHRUNK AND I AM UNDERSTANDABLY WORRIED ABOUT UTERINE SARCOMA AS I AM POSTMENOPAUSAL. PLEASE HELP! SUZIE

  18. Natalie
    2 years ago

    Hello,
    My name is Natalie, I am 39 years old with fibroid tumors. I am about 120 pounds with a abdomen which looks like I am 6 months pregnant, quiet a horrific sight and uncanny feeling. As far as the doctors are concerned my only option is surgery. However, since I have not released the possibility of having a child, I avoid the doctors as they offer no hope. I will give an ear to any advice you can offer. Natalie

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