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Birth Control with Fibroids: IUDs and the Pill

Posted on October 05, 2023
oral alternatives to fibroid surgery

When choosing birth control with fibroids, it’s important to carefully consider your options as they could impact your health. Why is that the case? Well, uterine fibroids aren’t cancerous, but they can cause major disruptions to your life, depending on whether they are submucosal, subserosal or intramural. (These are classifications that identify where in or on your uterus the tumors form.)

Now, we don’t know exactly why fibroids form, but we have identified certain risk factors. And, one of the most agreed upon risks is that estrogen levels impact fibroid growth. In fact, that’s why we think that fibroids keep growing when you’re pregnant, but typically resolve after menopause. So, now that we’ve highlighted the link between estrogen and fibroid growth, you should understand that taking birth control with fibroids could affect their growth. Want to engage in family planning without worsening your condition? Here are some important facts to consider.  

Oral Birth Control with Fibroids: What to Expect

Considering oral birth control while living with fibroids? Here are the changes you may experience.

  1. Periods Will Likely Become Lighter

If your fibroid symptoms include heavy or long periods, oral birth control could alleviate your discomfort. That’s because estrogen in this form of birth control boosts your clotting abilities while reducing blood flow.  

2.  Cramps Could Go Away, Too

Because oral birth control reduces prostaglandin levels, and prostaglandins contribute to uterine contractions and cramps, taking oral birth control could reduce menstrual and pelvic pain.

3. But, it Could Trigger Fibroid Growth

Unfortunately, fibroids respond to the presence of estrogen. So, if you take oral birth control with fibroids, your tumors could increase in size. Sounds like a problem? We agree, and that’s why we always suggest discussing your birth control options with our fibroid specialists in Atlanta before you start a new prescription.

4. Still, You Might Prevent Fibroid Formation

Already have fibroids? That oral birth control could increase your fibroid size. But if you don’t yet have fibroids, low-dose estrogen pills may lower your risk for fibroid development.

5. But Watch Out if You Have a Higher Cancer Risk. 

We know that taking birth control with an estrogen and progesterone combination can increase your risk for breast cancer. As a result, many, many women prefer progesterone-only contraceptives. Unfortunately, a new evidence reveals that this form of birth control can also increase your breast cancer risk, but only slightly.

Birth Control with Fibroids: What about an IUD?

If you’re concerned about taking oral contraceptives, you may choose to explore implanting an intrauterine device, or IUD, which can prevent pregnancy when placed in your uterus. Now, there are two forms of IUD. And they’ll work very differently for you if you’re using this form of birth control with fibroids.

Choosing Between a Non-Hormonal or Hormonal IUD

These two forms of IUD work differently to prevent pregnancy. A hormonal device releases synthetic hormones, thus thinning your uterine lining and thickening your cervical mucus. At the same time, they can interfere with ovulation. I

But what about a non-hormonal IUD? This type of device prevents pregnancy by  releasing copper into the uterus, creating an inflammatory environment that’s hostile to  sperm.

Now, because both IUDs implant in your uterus, you won’t be able to use this form of birth control with fibroids if the growths have changed the shape of your uterus. But, even if your uterine shape remains intact, you’ll need to choose carefully between a hormonal and non-hormonal IUD.

How does a Hormonal IUD affect Fibroids?

Like oral birth control, hormonal IUDs may relieve fibroid symptoms such as heavy periods or painful menstrual cramps. At the same time, this could reduce your risk for anemia, or improve symptoms of this condition, if you’ve already been diagnosed. Sounds good? Well, it is, except for one scary possibility…

Hormonal IUDs Could Make your Fibroids Worse

Because of the link between estrogen and fibroid growth, implanting a hormonal IUD could make your fibroids grow. Not willing to take that risk? Simply choose a non-hormonal IUD, instead. Just know that, while this device can prevent pregnancy, it won’t affect fibroid symptoms. In fact, the opposite may be true, as some women experience worsening cramps or heavier bleeding after implanting a non-hormonal IUD. And, whether you choose a hormonal or non-hormonal device, keep in mind that when you use this form of birth control with fibroids, you’re at higher risk for IUD expulsion. (That means the device fully or partially dislodges from your uterus, requiring medical intervention.)  

IUDs and Fibroids: A Final Warning

Here’s another important fact about hormonal IUDs based on user reports. One woman  named Chelsea reports that, just 5 weeks after implanting a Mirena IUD, she faced  anxiety, brain fog, migraines and up to 45-minutes of vision loss.  Eventually, these  symptoms eventually sent her to the ER, where she was advised to have her IUD removed. As soon as she did, her symptoms resolved, so she now warns other women not to choose a hormonal IUD if you’re already at risk for migraines or anxiety.

Clearly, there’s a lot to consider when choosing birth control with fibroids. That’s why we wanted you to understand all the potential pitfalls involved with this decision. But we also need to remind you that, while some forms of birth control can relieve symptoms of fibroids, they won’t get rid of the actual tumors. So, if you want a more permanent solution to fibroid growth, you’ll need to seek fibroid treatment that addresses the physical tumors. And, if you’d like to learn more about treatment options that allow you to avoid surgery, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with our fibroid specialist in Atlanta. Together, we’ll review if you’re a good candidate for Uterine Fibroid Embolization. 

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