When our doctors give us a sure-fire medical diagnosis, we are often relieved to finally have a name and a source for our uncomfortable symptoms. Most of the time, we’re also eager to learn the prognosis, the treatment plan, and our next steps. Pre- and post-treatment, we also want to know how this diagnosis or condition will impact our daily lives and functioning. If you’ve just been diagnosed with uterine fibroids (also called leiomyomas or myomas), you may be asking: “How will this impact my sex life?”
Because fibroids can grow within the muscle wall or on the outer surface of the uterus, it’s natural to ask: “Now that I know I have fibroids, Is it safe to continue having sex? Or will having sex make my fibroids and their related symptoms even worse?” We’re here to tell you that, if you have been diagnosed with fibroids, it’s safe to have sex. There are, however, a few issues to consider. Here’s our guide to sex and fibroids.
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Sex with fibroids: Is it OK?
Fibroids are not sexually transmitted, and having sex with fibroids will not make your fibroids increase in size or number or worsen your fibroid-related symptoms. Overall, as I explain in this video, you can have sex when you have fibroids.
However, there are some causal links (and myths) between developing fibroids and your levels of sexual functioning. For example, before their fibroid diagnosis, some women experience a decreased sex drive and a related decrease in how often they have sex. So it would be easy to assume that not having sex can actually cause fibroids. This is a myth and there is no correlation between the amount of sex you have and the likelihood of developing fibroids.
That said, for some women, having sex after developing fibroids can cause more pain than pleasure. How much pain? It varies based on the size, location, and number of fibroids you have.
Can Fibroids Cause Pain During Sex
In a 2014 study published in “The Journal of Sexual Medicine,” the researchers found that women who suffer from uterine fibroids are more likely to experience pain during or after sexual intercourse. Or, to use the medical term, they experience dyspareunia.
Fibroids can be as small as a seedling and, in some cases, as big as a grapefruit or a melon. If yours are on the large side, the fibroids can stimulate pressure in the uterus that makes sex painful. Likewise, when fibroids form at the end of the vaginal tract, they can press on the cervix or hang through the cervical opening, causing sex to be highly uncomfortable.
Fibroids depend on blood flow. So occasionally, disruptions to that blood supply can result in vaginal bleeding during or after intercourse. As well as experiencing pain during or after sex, some women report that, based on their past or anticipated pain levels, they become anxious or lose confidence around their body image or sexual function and their ability to feel sexual pleasure. In turn, this anxiety can make for decreased arousal and, therefore, make having sex more painful than before.
According to the Mayo Clinic and the American Association of Family Physicians, a number of physiological and psychological factors or life experiences can make you more susceptible to fibroid-induced or -related painful sex. Painful sex or the risk of dyspareunia is 30% higher among women who have given birth. Younger, premenopausal women are also at higher risk, along with women who have non-fibroid pelvic conditions or women with depression.
Also, women with extra-large fibroids may develop a distended abdomen–often called a “fibroid belly”–which may lead to a more negative body image which, in turn, can lead to reduced arousal and more pain during deep (post penetration) sexual intercourse.
Fortunately, fibroid treatments are very effective at reducing or eliminating pain during sex caused by fibroids because most treatments get rid of the growths or significantly shrink them. Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is a non-invasive procedure that blocks the blood flow to fibroids causing them to shrink.
Can Fibroids Affect a Man?
Men or those who are assigned male sex at birth cannot develop fibroids. Also, during sexual intercourse, fibroids do not impact the sensation for your partner or cause them to experience pain. Fibroids are not sexually transmitted, so if you have fibroids, you don’t need to worry about passing them on to your partner—regardless of your partner’s gender(s).
While waiting to schedule your fibroid treatment, there are a few steps you can take. First, it can help to have open and honest communication with your partner(s). Be open about your symptoms. Also, consider or discuss temporary alternatives to penetrative sex. Finally, be open to new or different sexual positions–some of which can reduce your pain levels. Again, whatever routes you choose, communication with your partner will help.
Sex after Fibroid Operation
If you opt to have your fibroids treated via a non-invasive treatment like uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), we would typically advise you to abstain from sex for a week or so after your treatment. Of course, this prescribed or suggested abstinence period will vary according to the size of your fibroids and how you respond to the UFE treatment. The good news: After your treatment and recuperation, sex should no longer be painful.
In 2016, a study published in CardioVascular and Interventional Radiology found that one year after their UFE treatment, 78.8% of the study’s participants had improved their sexual functioning and overall quality of life. However, If you are still experiencing pain during sex after you have been treated, be sure to make a follow-up appointment to consult your doctor.
It’s perfectly safe to have sex after you have developed (or been diagnosed with) uterine fibroids. But for some women, their fibroids make sex less pleasurable and even painful. This pain can be alleviated. If you have any questions or concerns about sex and fibroids, we recommend speaking with your doctor.
If you’re interested in Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) as an option to relieve pain during sex caused by fibroids, book a free care consultation with a PainTheory Care Coordinator, or schedule an appointment with one of our partners located near you.
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