Fibroids are noncancerous tumors that develop in the muscle tissue of the uterus. They are very common, affecting at least 50% of women, and the condition is even more common in African-American women.
Fibroids, also known as myomas or leiomyomas, grow in or around the uterus. The majority of fibroids develop in the uterine walls or on the outside of the uterus. A small percentage of fibroids protrude into the uterine cavity, grow on a stalk, or attach to surrounding organs and ligaments.
A woman may have a single fibroid, or many. Most grow slowly, but fibroids are sensitive to hormones, and sudden rapid growth is possible. Some fibroids get larger during the early weeks of pregnancy and can increase the risk of preterm birth, miscarriage or cesarean section. Enlarged fibroids can also become painful or shift the baby’s position in the uterus.
Many women experience no symptoms and are not even aware they have fibroids, but your gynecologist may suspect fibroids if you have the following:
- Heavy or lengthy periods
- Bleeding between periods
- Menstrual cramps
- Abdominal pain or pressure
- Discomfort during sex
- Difficult or frequent urination, constipation, or rectal pain
- Miscarriage or infertility
FIBROIDS & INFERTILITY
Fibroids can impact fertility, making it more difficult to become pregnant or maintain a pregnancy. Reduced fertility may be due to:
- Cervical changes that limit the number of sperm entering the uterus
- Blocked fallopian tubes
- Changes in the uterine shape or lining
- Disruption of uterine blood flow leading to problems with implantation
Your gynecologist or fertility specialist will review your personal health situation to determine whether fibroid treatment is advisable. Many of the medications used to treat uterine fibroids, such as birth control pills and GnRH agonists, can interfere with fertility since they suppress ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovary).
Surgery to remove problematic fibroids – myomectomy – may be recommended if the tumor is thought to be contributing to infertility or recurrent miscarriages. Depending on the size, location and number of the fibroids, this surgery can be performed through a variety of different approaches. Surgery does not prevent new fibroids from forming.