Uterine fibroids, also known as myomas or leiomyomas, are atypical tissues that can develop inside or on your uterus. People who have a uterus are likely to develop these benign (noncancerous) tumors as they get older.
If you’ve received a diagnosis of fibroids and are in a relationship, you may worry about how to openly talk with your partner about your condition.
If you’re wondering what and how you can share with your partner, read on.
How fibroids can affect you depends on:
- how many there are
- where they are
- how big they are
Some people with fibroids experience little to no pain. Some don’t even know they have fibroids because they don’t have any discomfort.
Other people with fibroids experience a lot of pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, and other symptoms including anemia, urinary incontinence, and weight gain.
According to Dr. Nicole Washington, chief medical officer of Elocin Psychiatric Services, “Creating opportunities for education for the partner can be immensely helpful.”
“Honestly, it isn’t something that people talk about a lot in public settings, so unless they have a history of other loved ones with [fibroids], they may have no clue how impairing it can be,” she says. “Allowing them to learn and ask questions can be a great start.”
You may find that your partner will try to offer solutions, which can feel frustrating. Remember that it usually comes from a place of love, and they’re trying to help. When this happens, you can let your partner know that you appreciate the advice, but you’re simply looking for them to listen — you don’t necessarily want them to fix anything.
Anemia happens when your body loses blood faster than it can replace it.
Bleeding heavily can cause a significant loss of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the iron-rich protein found in red blood cells, and it supplies oxygen to different parts of your body.
Heavy bleeding can make it harder for your body to replace blood.
When this happens, you won’t have enough red blood cells to pump oxygen to your body’s tissues and organs. That’s why it’s also common to experience shortness of breath and fatigue when you have anemia.
Fibroids are likely to enlarge your uterus. How big your uterus gets depends on the size of the fibroids. Large fibroids can make you look pregnant.
They can also put pressure on your bladder which is located below and in front of your uterus. When this happens, your bladder loses its ability to hold urine.
That’s why you may frequently get the urge to urinate, or you may not even be able to make it to the bathroom in time.
As fibroids grow, they add extra tissue to your body. Some people may notice weight gain from the added fibroid tissues. Overall, though, fibroids generally don’t tend to cause a significant amount of weight gain.
Pain, pressure to your bladder, and heavy bleeding can also make it hard for you to do any physical activity that burns calories.
Fibroids can also affect your mental health. You’re likely to feel down, irritated, or grumpy. In fact, a 2022 study on women with fibroids showed that they were at a greater risk of developing depression or anxiety.
The more severe the symptoms of fibroids, the higher the likelihood that they’ll affect your mental health.
“Seeing a mental health professional can be a great way to process through all of the negative emotions that one might experience,” Washington notes. “It is not uncommon to see mood shifts or anxiety. The physical changes can lead to a lot of negative self-talk and lower self-esteem that can absolutely be benefited from engaging in formal treatment.”
“Having open, honest conversation about the effects is the only way to get the support needed,” she adds. “I see a lot of patients with fibroids who try to put up a brave front as if they are OK, when in reality they are miserable at times. Sometimes that is due to fears of being a burden or not wanting that person to worry about them. Other times, it’s because they are embarrassed to have to talk about some of the more sensitive topics such as [urinary incontinence].”
“Intimacy can take a hit for anyone with fibroids but for those who have changes in weight, increased abdominal girth, or incontinence, this can be really damaging,” says Washington.
Have your partner accompany you to your doctor. This way, they can get a better understanding of how fibroids can affect your relationship, especially because they may lower your desire for sex or intimacy, as
Fibroids may make you feel uncomfortable and unattractive. They can also make sex painful. Painful sex is also known as
- lack of lubrication
- pelvic floor muscle contractions
If sex is painful because of a particular position, you can find other positions that are comfortable. If penetrative sex causes you pain, nonpenetrative styles may ease your discomfort.
Washington notes, “Being able to navigate [your partner] through what things you can no longer tolerate and what things are OK can help you continue to have a healthy sex life.”
Besides repositioning, you may also need to plan around the ideal times to have sex. For example, you may need to avoid having sex right before or during your period, when fibroids can cause the most pain.
Anticipating pain during sex can make it hard for you to lubricate.
When this happens, you may end up having dry sex, which can be painful. You can use lube to try to prevent this. You can also get a pelvic wand. This may relieve pain in your pelvic area, according to 2011 research.
“It is also important to remember that a healthy sex life or healthy intimacy involves so much more than what we think about when we think of sex,” says Washington. “This is a time to really explore true intimacy with your partner and find ways to pleasure each other that aren’t painful or don’t bring you discomfort.”
Understanding your condition makes it easier for you to answer any questions your partner may have. You’ll want to make sure you chat about fibroids when you feel comfortable and can share as much as you can.
Just like you’ll want to talk about how fibroids affect you physically and mentally, you may also need to go over the available
Your doctor may prescribe birth control pills, hormone injections, a hormone-releasing intrauterine device, or surgical or nonsurgical procedures. Some procedures can shrink your fibroids and lessen the severity of the symptoms.
Acupuncture may also help with fibroid pain. Per a 2016 review, some studies have shown that this practice may relieve menstrual cramps.
Some home remedies and over-the-counter medication may also help you treat your pain. These include:
- taking ibuprofen
- using heating pads
- taking vitamin and mineral supplements
- avoiding red meat, refined carbohydrates, and sugary foods, which can worsen fibroids
Your partner can help support you by attending doctor’s appointments with you, reading informational materials, and supporting your recovery after a surgical or nonsurgical procedure.
Fibroids can interfere with your life and relationships. But by keeping open lines of communication with your partner, you can work through managing this condition together.
“In these conversations, it is important to be ready to talk about how your partner can support you during the times you don’t feel your best because sometimes they don’t know what to do to help,” Washington notes. “Maybe you don’t need them to do anything during those times, but if there are things that you would like from them, it is fair that they know what those things are.”