Uterine Fibroids affect a woman’s life and more importantly can affect her pregnancy. According to some recent research, fibroids can affect approximately 35-77% of women in their reproductive ages. They have more recently been considered as a public health concern, costing the U.S. health system $34.4 billion dollars per year.
Uterine Fibroids, or leiomyomas (myomas for short), occur when one of these smooth muscle cells divides more rapidly than those around it. As a result, a lump (or tumor) that is distinct from the surrounding cells develops. They are normally benign but have been known to cause severe pain bleeding and infertility. If located in specific areas, they can cause infertility by obstructing the fallopian tubes and not allowing the sperm to pass through, or by interfering with the implantation of an embryo.
Uterine Fibroids are common, and it is estimated that three out of four women will have fibroids develop at some point in their life. Most of the time they go unrecognized because they don’t produce any side effects. Women who do recognize symptoms, have irregular or heavy bleeding, pain with periods or with intercourse, or problems with conceiving or carrying a pregnancy. It is possible for a fibroid to be malignant, although it is extremely rare. Less than seven women out of every 100,000 will be diagnosed with a malignant fibroid.
Symptoms for fibroids appear different for each type of fibroid. There are four distinct types, each with their own unique area of the uterus where they appear.
Subserosal fibroids form on the serosa or outside of your uterus. If they grow large enough, they can make your womb appear bigger on one side. They don’t produce any noticeable side effects other than their size.
Intramural fibroids appear within the muscular wall of the uterus. They are the most common type of fibroid and have been known to stretch your womb as they grow. They have been known to cause heavier periods and some pain, but unless they distort the uterine cavity, they haven’t been seen to affect pregnancy.
Submucosal fibroids develop in the myometrium or the middle muscle layer of your uterus. They aren’t as common as the other types but have been known to cause heavy bleeding and cramping. They also can grow and protrude into the uterine cavity and interfere with pregnancy.
Pedunculated fibroids are non-cancerous subserosal tumors that have developed a stem, called the peduncle. They can be painful if the stem gets twisted or if the tumor grows large that it pushes against the uterine wall and other organs.
It is still possible to conceive naturally with uterine fibroids, but there are ways in which fibroids can impede your pregnancy. They can sometimes block fallopian tubes or distort the uterus or cervix negatively. The main problem is impacting the gamete movement or embryo implantation. Always consult with your fertility physician if you have a submucosal fibroid that is larger than six centimeters. They have a higher likelihood of impeding conception.
It is still possible to become pregnant and have a healthy baby with uterine fibroids. The primary concern during pregnancy is if the fibroid will increase the chance of a miscarriage or preterm birth. In these situations, the fibroid changes the baby’s position in the uterus which leads to the problems. We always suggest talking with your physician about the best options to deal with the fibroids during pregnancy.
It is rare, but in some cases, the fibroids will outgrow their blood supply and cause severe pain. In this situation, surgery might be necessary. If you conceive after having a fibroid surgically removed, you should let your obstetrician know. It might be beneficial to have a c-section in this situation.
Here at the Fertility Center, we have managed dozens of pregnancies with uterine fibroids. We want you to know it is completely possible to get pregnant and raise a healthy baby. We’d love to talk to you further about your fertility options. Please contact us today!