Women suffering from fibroids could have their symptoms relieved by a new type of morning after contraceptive pill.
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The drug, ulipristal acetate, has proved to be a useful treatment for the common womb condition, which can lead to pain, heavy periods and infertility.
Scientists said women taking the contraceptive pill saw their fibroids shrink and experienced a noticeable reduction in their discomfort.
Psychological tests showed that their energy levels, mood and general quality of life all improved. Other evidence confirmed that after stopping the treatment, fertility returned to normal.
Study leader Alicia Armstrong, from the US National Institutes of Health, said: “The results… are convincing and lead us to conclude that ulipristal acetate is an effective non-invasive treatment for fibroids that can help maintain fertility in women whose only option up to now was to have surgery.”
Ulipristal acetate is currently being developed as a novel form of emergency contraception.
Researchers thought it might also work as a fibroid treatment, because of its effect on the fertility hormone progesterone.
Progesterone helps to trigger ovulation, but recent research has shown it also plays a role in the development of uterine fibroids.
The condition is believed to affect 24 million women in Europe, and as many as one in four British women will suffer from the non-cancerous growths in their lifetime.