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Fibroids - What are fibroids?

BMJ Group Medical Reference


Many women have fibroids. They are lumps that grow in your womb. They sometimes cause heavy or painful periods. But most women with fibroids don't get any symptoms.

We've brought together the best research about fibroids and weighed up the evidence about how to treat them. You can use our information to talk to your doctor and decide which treatments are best for you.

Fibroids are lumps that grow in your womb. They're not cancer and they don't usually cause any problems. We're not sure why women get fibroids, but they're common.

If you have heavy periods, painful periods, or a feeling of fullness or discomfort in your pelvis, you may want to get checked by your doctor to see if you have fibroids.

If you have fibroids and they're causing problems, there are treatments that can help. The best treatments involve surgery. But if you're nearing the menopause (when your periods stop), you may choose to wait. Fibroids often get better on their own around this time.

Key points for women with fibroids


  • Fibroids are very common and are usually harmless.

  • As many as 3 in 4 women may have fibroids. But less than half of these women have symptoms.

  • The most common symptoms are heavy periods, painful periods, or a feeling of fullness or discomfort in your pelvis.

  • Fibroids are easy to diagnose. Doctors usually diagnose them with an ultrasound scan.

  • Fibroids don't usually stop you getting pregnant or cause problems during your pregnancy.

Your womb

To understand what happens if you have fibroids, it helps to know more about your womb.

fibroids-fibroiduterus-original_default.jpgYour womb has three layers:

  • The inner layer is the lining (or endometrium)

  • In the middle is a thick layer of muscle called the myometrium

  • The outside has a thin cover called the serosal layer.

Fibroids can grow in the lining and the muscle, and just below the serosal layer.

Every month, the lining of your womb grows thicker to get ready for pregnancy. This is controlled by two hormones called oestrogen and progesterone.

If you don't get pregnant, the lining of your womb falls away and you bleed from your vagina. This is your monthly period.

The changes in your womb lining are part of your menstrual cycle. This is the monthly set of events that causes an egg to come out of your ovaries. It also causes your period to happen if you aren't pregnant.

To learn more, see What happens every month.

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Last Updated: August 15, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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