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What you need to know about fibroids and adenomyosis

Ahead of our ‘Let’s Talk Periods’ webinar, Dr Varsha Jain gives us the lowdown on two common, yet often not talked about, women’s health conditions that can cause painful and heavy periods – and what you can do to help manage symptoms


Fibroids and adenomyosis are gynaecological conditions that can lead to heavy and painful periods, impacting the physical and mental wellbeing of women affected by them.

Due to the similarity of symptoms, adenomyosis is often misdiagnosed as uterine fibroids, but the two conditions are not the same.

Read our facts about adenomyosis and fibroids by Dr Varsha Jain (pictured below), a Wellbeing of Women Research Training Fellow at the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh, who is investigating why women suffer from heavy menstrual bleeding.

Five facts about adenomyosis

1. Adenomyosis occurs when cells lining the womb are found abnormally positioned in the muscle of the uterus. Symptoms include heavy, painful or irregular periods, and pain during sexual intercourse.

2. It is similar to, but should not be confused with, another condition known as endometriosis. This is where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus, such as on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bowel or bladder.

3. Adenomyosis affects about 20-35% of women with abnormal bleeding that could be heavier, lighter and/or more irregular than usual. It is most common in women in their 40s and/or those who have had at least one child, but it typically disappears after menopause.

4. The cause of adenomyosis remains unknown, but there are some theories. These include the invasion of cells from the lining of the uterus to the muscle layer, problems during the repair of the lining of the womb at the end of each menstrual cycle, or adenomyosis developing from stem cells, which have the potential to grow into any kind of cell.

5. It’s important you don’t suffer from symptoms in silence and speak to your GP if you have concerns. There are non-hormonal and hormonal treatments to help manage symptoms, for example, medicines such as NSAIDS can help with pain, and tranexamic acid can reduce heavy bleeding. The contraceptive pill or Mirena coil can also help. In extreme cases, a hysterectomy may be an option if you do not wish to retain your fertility.

    Five facts about fibroids

    1. Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop in or around the uterus. Some can be the size of the pea and others the size of a melon.

    2. These affect around 1 in 3 women and usually affect those between the ages of 30-50 years. Black women tend to have fibroids more often than women of other races, with 80% developing them by the age of 50 years. They will often have more severe symptoms, as well as other gynaecological conditions affecting their womb at the same time.

    3. Many women are unaware they have fibroids because they do not experience any symptoms. About 1 in 3 will experience heavy/painful periods, stomach pain, lower back pain, constipation, a frequent need to urinate or pain/discomfort during sex.

    4. Fibroids usually develop during a woman’s reproductive years when oestrogen levels are at their highest and they can shrink after the menopause when these levels decrease.

    5. Fibroids don’t always need to be treated if there aren’t any symptoms. But in cases where they are affecting a woman’s quality of life, there are treatment options available, including medicines to help with pain, heavy bleeding, and to shrink the fibroids. Surgery may be considered if symptoms are severe and medicines have not worked.

      Our expert Dr Varsha Jain will be speaking about these two conditions at the ‘Let’s Talk Periods’ webinar on Wednesday 26 January, 1-2pm. Registration is open and tickets can be booked on this link.

      For more information about the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh, follow this link.

      For further information about fibroids and adenomyosis, visit our information pages.