Did you know that you can still have fibroids after menopause? While uncommon, this is true. Now, uterine fibroids are an extremely common type of noncancerous tumor. Many women don’t even know they have fibroids, because they don’t experience symptoms, like pain or heavy menstrual flow. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there, waiting to cause problems. Or that they’ll always resolve after your monthly period slows down or stops.
Stages of Menopause
Before we explore fibroids and menopause, you have to understand that the end of your period happens slowly, in stages. First, there is premenopause; we define this as the years between your first period and perimenopause. Then, perimenopause begins when your ovaries start producing fewer hormones. During this time, which usually begins in your 40s, your periods become unreliable. But, during this time, you can still get pregnant, because you are producing some hormones. So you will also have to worry about estrogen and fibroid growth.
Perimenopause can be brief, or last for several years. During perimenopause, your fibroids may start to shrink. And your symptoms may improve, as your body produces less estrogen and progesterone, two hormones that can increase your risk for fibroids. But not every woman will feel perimenopausal relief without treatment.
We mark the end of perimenopause with menopause, which we say you’ve reached after 12 straight months without a period. Following that time, you’re a post-menopausal woman. So you won’t go through a menstrual cycle. But you still may notice fibroid symptoms.
Fibroids During Menopause
During menopause, your body’s sudden lack of reproductive hormones can cause fibroids to shrink. Typically, the change also prevents new fibroids from forming, but this is not always the case. Menopause is not a guaranteed cure for fibroids, which means that you may continue to experience uterine fibroid symptoms during and after menopause.
Certain conditions or factors can contribute to your likelihood of developing uterine fibroids. These include:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Low vitamin D levels. We’ve recently learned that having enough vitamin D allows your body to produce chemicals that may prevent fibroid growth. So having a deficiency could leave you vulnerable to fibroids after menopause, or at any other time.
- A family history of uterine fibroids
- An extended period of extreme stress
- No history of pregnancy
- African-American ethnicity
- Being 40+ years of age
Treating Fibroids After Menopause
While menopause often helps resolve fibroid symptoms, it’s not always a cure. Plus, if you choose to undergo hormone replacement therapy to ease menopause symptoms, your fibroids may start to cause more problems, In either case, there are several treatment options available for women with uterine fibroids including:
- Oral contraceptives. With this option, your body’s estrogen levels drop, so your body may stop producing hormones, since we believe there’s a link between hormones and fibroids.
- Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)
Many of these treatments are the same for all women, regardless of age. But younger women who still plan to have children typically prefer to take oral contraceptives or undergo a minimally invasive procedure like UFE. Now, menopause may make a more permanent surgical option, like a hysterectomy, more attractive since your childbearing years are over.
Yet, even if you’ve experienced menopause, a hysterectomy is a very invasive procedure. Now, until recently, most physicians didn’t consider UFE the best treatment option for post-menopausal women with fibroids. But a new study in Women’s Heath Reports reveals that 20 out of 23 post-menopausal women who chose UFE treatment for fibroids recommended this treatment option, due to the relief they experienced in terms of fibroid size reduction and symptom improvement.
And, given results like these, it is more important than ever to discuss all of these options with your women’s health specialist. Together, we can help you reach a decision based on your current health and outlook on potential treatments. Click here to schedule an appointment with one of the fibroid specialists of Houston Fibroids, or please contact our office today at (713) 575-3686.