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What is adenomyosis?

Adenomyosis is when the lining of the womb grows into the muscle wall. It can cause heavy, painful or irregular periods.

What is adenomyosis?

Adenomyosis is thought to affect around one in 10 women in the UK. It happens when the cells from the lining of the womb are found in the muscle wall of the womb.

These cells grow, break down and then bleed during each period. This can cause heavy, painful and/or irregular periods.

What are the symptoms of adenomyosis?

Around one in three women will not have any symptoms. If you do, the most common are

  • heavy, painful or irregular periods
  • pre-menstrual pelvic pain
  • feelings of heaviness or discomfort in the pelvis
  • bloating.

Other symptoms include

  • pain during sex
  • pain when having a poo
  • an enlarged womb.

Symptoms of adenomyosis can be similar to those of endometriosis and fibroids. But these conditions are different.

How does adenomyosis get diagnosed?

If you have any symptoms of adenomyosis or you’re worried about a change in your periods, speak to your GP. Keep track of your periods and symptoms in a diary to show your doctor.

A GP will ask about your symptoms and may examine you.

You may be sent for a transvaginal ultrasound scan. This is where a small ultrasound probe is gently passed into the vagina. You might also have an MRI scan to investigate your symptoms.

What are the causes of adenomyosis?

We don’t know why adenomyosis happens. It could be linked to genetics, a problem with the immune system or an issue with hormones.

What is it like to live with adenomyosis?

Living with pain caused by adenomyosis can be hard. The symptoms, such as pain and heavy periods, can affect your work, relationships and emotions, so it is important to get the help you need.

See your GP about your symptoms as soon as possible. You could print this page and take it with you.

What treatments are there for adenomyosis?

There is no cure, but treatments can help you to manage symptoms. Your treatment will depend on your symptoms and what’s right for you.

If your symptoms are mild, you’re trying for a baby or nearing the menopause, you may choose to do nothing.

Medical treatments include

  • painkillers, such as paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). If these do not work, your GP can prescribe stronger painkillers.
  • medication, such as tranexamic acid or mefenamic acid, to help with heavy bleeding and pain
  • hormonal treatments, like the contraceptive pill, coil or injection, to reduce bleeding and pain
  • removal of your womb - this is surgery called a hysterectomy
  • a uterine artery embolization – a procedure where tiny particles are injected into blood vessels to block the blood supply to the adenomyosis and cause it to shrink.

It's ok to ask your doctor any questions about your care to help you get the information you might need.

What can I do to help myself?

Therapies and lifestyle changes may help you cope. You might find yoga, mindfulness and meditation helpful.

Hot and cold therapy may help improve some types of chronic pain. This is where heat pads and ice packs relax your muscles or numb pain.

A tens machine may help to reduce pain.

Exercising, eating a balanced diet, drinking less alcohol and stopping smoking can all help to manage your symptoms better.

Can I have a baby if I have adenomyosis?

Adenomyosis does not appear to decrease the chance of pregnancy. Some women may experience an increased risk of miscarriage and premature birth.

More information

Watch our expert webinar on adenomyosis and what can be done to improve symptoms.

There’s more information on the NHS Scotland and North Bristol NHS Trust websites.

Getting support

The Adenomyosis Advice Association provides information and support. The Pelvic Pain Support Network is for those with pelvic pain and their families.

The AdenoGang platform raises awareness and provides an informal patient group.

Read experiences of adenomyosis

Tanya's story: "My periods leave me on the floor, vomiting, crying and holding my belly"
Beth's story: Living with adenomyosis

The information on this page was last reviewed by a medical expert in April 2023.