What Are Uterine Fibroids and How Do They Develop?
Muscular tumors developing on the uterine walls are called uterine fibroids (leiomyomas). Nearly all uterine fibroids are benign and pose no serious health risk to women. In rare instances, uterine fibroids may grow large enough to cause the stomach to protrude, making a woman appear pregnant. More women in their 40s and 50s are diagnosed with uterine fibroids, than younger women. Although, it is not uncommon for women in their 20s and 30s to have uterine fibroids.
Can Fibroids Interfere with Fertility?
Yes. Submucosal interline fibroids attached to the uterine inner wall and cavity could prevent implantation and normal growth of the embryo. Fibroids large enough to alter the structure or integrity of the uterus could cause reduced infertility, regardless of where they are developing in the uterus. In addition, uterine fibroids have been associated with reduced success of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) procedures. Women undergoing infertility testing should always be screened for the possible presence of uterine fibroids.
Who is at Risk for Having Uterine Fibroids?
- Women in their 30s and 40s who have not experienced menopause are more likely to be diagnosed with fibroids. After menopause, small fibroids typically shrink and eventually disappear.
- Having a mother, sister or grandmother with a history of fibroids increases your risk of developing fibroids.
- Being overweight can contribute to uterine fibroid growth. The heavier a woman is, the greater her risk of having them.
- Eating lots of beef and ham has been linked to an increased risk of uterine fibroids.
- Fluctuations in hormone levels may contribute to fibroid growth. Pregnant women are prone to the development of uterine fibroids since progesterone and estrogen play roles in uterine fibroid growth.
What are the Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids?
Many women with fibroids may not experience symptoms and only discover they have fibroids following a pelvic exam. When symptoms do occur, they involve:
- Heavy, painful periods. Bleeding may be so excessive that it causes anemia in some women
- The feeling of fullness in the lower stomach (pelvic) area
- Slight bulging or enlargement of the pelvic area
- Frequent urination
- Lower back pain
- Pain during sexual intercourse
To confirm the existence of uterine fibroids, doctors may order ultrasounds, MRIs, x-rays, or CT scans. Larger fibroids can be detected during a pelvic exam and may not require further tests.
Treatment for Uterine Fibroids
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists (GnRHa) are commonly prescribed to reduce symptoms of uterine fibroids. In some cases, GnRHA may shrink fibroids. However, once a woman stops taking GnRHa, fibroids usually grow back rapidly.
Women with moderate to severe uterine fibroid symptoms may choose to have them removed surgically. A myomectomy is recommended for women with fibroids who want to have children. Hysterectomies (removal of the uterus) is the only way to permanently eliminate uterine fibroids. Another treatment method is called endometrial ablation. This involves removing or destroying the uterine lining to stop heavy bleeding. Women having an endometrial ablation will be unable to have children.
Can You Get Pregnant with Uterine Fibroids?
It is possible to conceive naturally with fibroids, but it can be difficult. If you are experiencing infertility and think you may have uterine fibroids, a fertility doctor can provide information regarding options available to achieve pregnancy. In many cases, women with smaller fibroids that are not causing symptoms may become pregnant through an IVF procedure. Alternately, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove fibroids before becoming pregnant.
Viera Fertility Center offers fertility testing and fertility treatments such as laparoscopy for removing uterine fibroids. Recovery times and post-operative discomfort are much less than those associated with standard abdominal surgeries. If infertility is still an issue after a laparoscopy, Viera Fertility Center provides a variety of assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF, IUI, and fertility drug therapy to help you become pregnant. Call Dr. Chamoun today to schedule an appointment.