Uterus is a medical term for what we generally refer to a mother’s womb. It is one of the reproductive organs of the female genital tract located in the pelvis. The normal shape and size of uterus is synonymous to a pear. It is hollow from inside with surrounding thick musculature.
Uterus enlarges in its size during pregnancy. From its original pear shape, it enlarges to the size of a football to accommodate the growing fetus. Enlarged uterus during pregnancy is not the only reason; there are several medical conditions that can change the size of uterus. Some of them are not harmful, while some conditions can be catastrophic for a woman, where she may require urgent medical attention.
With growing age, especially during perimenopause and menopause, women may face several genital and reproductive problems. They are largely related to hormonal changes occurring during this period. Many times a woman may overlook an expanding waist line or sudden bulge in the belly.
She may also neglect to find the reason for sudden weight gain. While these two are often signs of enlarged uterus, there are many other symptoms that can indicate uterine problem. It is possible to palpate an enlarged uterus if the size is enormous. Besides pregnancy let us know what causes enlargement of uterus.
What Causes The Enlargement Of Uterus?
Enlargement of uterus can be a normal physiological process as we may observe during pregnancy. However, the size of uterus decreases after delivery and almost returns to its original size.
There are several abnormal conditions that can lead to enlargement of uterus. Some of them are benign and harmless, while some can be malignant growths.
- Fibroids: fibroids are non cancerous growths in the wall of uterus. They can be inside the uterus or on its outer surface. It is one of the most common causes for enlargement of uterus. According to clinical survey, almost 50% of females may have suffered from fibroids sometime in their life. The size of a fibroid may vary; it can be as small as a marble to as big as golf ball. There can be a single fibroid or multiple fibroid in the uterus at the same time. Fibroids are usually present during the childbearing age. An obese woman is at a greater risk of suffering from fibroid. Besides, stress, hormone changes and hereditary factors are also associated with fibroid development. After menopause a fibroid shrinks in size.
- Cancer of uterus: endometrial and cervical cancer of uterus is commonly associated with enlargement of the uterus. Endometrial cancer is cancer of the inner lining of the uterus. Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix, which is the lowest part of uterus. Endometrial cancer usually occurs in women who have crossed their menopause age. Dominance of estrogen hormone, a woman on hormone replacement therapy is at a risk of developing endometrial cancer.
- Use of contraceptive pills and insertion of IUD (intrauterine device) for birth control can cause swelling of the uterus lining and enlargement of uterus.
- Adenomyosis: it is a condition where the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus (endometrium) grows on the outer surface of the uterus. It is a common cause for enlarged uterus. The exact reason behind the problem is not known, but usually it occurs in females above the age of 30. It occurs in a woman who has children. It also occurs in woman with a history of cesarean section. The condition is benign.
Symptoms Of Uterus Enlargement
- Menstrual abnormality: it is common finding for an enlarged uterus due to fibroid. Persistent and profuse bleeding is present with a fibroid. There may be discharge of blood clots together with heavy bleeding. Painful menstruation is common feature if the reason is fibroid.
- A mass can be palpated over the lower abdomen. The swelling may be firm and mobile. It may have well defined margins.
- Anemia occurs due to excessive loss of blood.
- General weakness and pale face due to anemia.
- Sudden weight gain, especially an increased waistline may be indicating uterus overgrowth.
- Pressure symptoms: this is due to the pressure of an enlarged uterus on the surrounding structures. It consists of cramps in the pelvic area, constipation, swelling in the legs and cramps in the calf muscles. Frequency of urination, backaches etc. are also presenting symptoms of enlarged uterus.
- Watery discharge if the tumor is malignant.
- Bleeding after menopause is a classical symptom of uterus enlargement as a result of uterine cancer.
Complications Of An Enlarged Uterus
- Sterility is a common cause of fibroids and adenomyosis. If at all pregnancy occurs, the risk of miscarriage are far greater.
- Infections: it may come through the inflamed neighboring parts. Or the inflammation may develop in the wall of the uterus (auto infection). Suppuration is rare but sloughing occurs due to necrosis.
- Axial rotation of the tumor due to its own weight. This may cause pain and rise in temperature.