The impact of fibroids on fertility can vary depending on the size, location, and number of fibroids, as well as individual factors. In many cases, fibroids may not cause any fertility issues or complications during pregnancy.
A uterine fibroid, also known as leiomyoma or simply fibroid, is a non-cancerous (benign) tumour that develops within the muscular walls of the uterus, which is the female reproductive organ where a foetus grows during pregnancy. Uterine fibroids are quite common and can vary in size, ranging from small pea-sized nodules to large growths that can distend the uterus.
The exact cause of fibroids is not entirely understood, but they are influenced by hormonal factors, particularly oestrogen and progesterone. They tend to grow during the reproductive years when hormone levels are at their highest and often shrink after menopause when hormone levels decrease.
Many women do not even realise they have fibroids when they do not interfere with their day-to-day life. When they experience pain or discomfort during intercourse or heavy bleeding during their menstrual cycle, they see a doctor and get a scan that reveals the fibroids. Treating fibroids depends on their size, how much discomfort it is causing and if it is interfering with conception or pregnancy.
Symptoms of Fibroids
Symptoms of uterine fibroids may vary depending on their size, number, and location. Some common symptoms include:
Types of Fibroids
Uterine fibroids, also known as leiomyomas, can be classified into several types based on their location within the uterus. The main types of fibroids are:
The treatment of fibroids depends on numerous factors, including the severity of symptoms, the size and location of the fibroids, a woman’s age, and her desire to have children. Treatment options for uterine fibroids include:
Fibroids and Cancer
Uterine fibroids, also known as leiomyomas, are almost always benign, meaning they are non-cancerous growths. Most fibroids do not turn into cancer (malignant tumours). They are considered a benign condition.
However, in extremely rare cases (less than 1% of all fibroids), a type of cancer called leiomyosarcoma can develop within a fibroid. Leiomyosarcoma is a malignant tumour that arises from the smooth muscle cells of the uterus. It is crucial to emphasise that leiomyosarcoma is exceptionally uncommon, and most fibroids are benign and pose no cancer risk.
While the risk of fibroids turning cancerous is exceptionally low, it is essential to be aware of potential warning signs and seek medical attention if you experience:
Fibroids and their impact on fertility
The impact of fibroids on fertility can vary depending on the size, location, and number of fibroids, as well as individual factors. In many cases, fibroids may not cause any fertility issues or complications during pregnancy. However, in some instances, they can influence a woman’s ability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term. Here are some ways fibroids can impact fertility.
Many women with fibroids can conceive and have successful pregnancies. However, if you are having trouble conceiving or have concerns about fibroids and their potential impact on your fertility or pregnancy, it is essential to consult with your doctor. They can assess your individual situation, provide guidance, and recommend appropriate treatment options if necessary. In some cases, addressing fibroids before attempting pregnancy may be recommended to optimise the chances of a successful conception and healthy pregnancy.
How to prevent fibroids?
The exact cause of uterine fibroids is not fully understood, and therefore, there is no definitive way to prevent their development. However, certain lifestyle choices and factors may play a role in reducing the risk of fibroids or minimizing their growth. Here are some considerations that may help:
While these factors may have some influence on fibroid development, it is essential to remember that fibroids can still occur despite taking preventive measures. Additionally, some risk factors for fibroids, such as age, family history, and ethnicity, are beyond an individual’s control.
Regular gynaecological check-ups are essential for early detection and monitoring of fibroids, especially if you are experiencing any symptoms or belong to a higher-risk group. If you have concerns about fibroids or other gynaecological issues, it is best to consult with an expert for personalised advice and appropriate management.
CONSULTANT – OBSTETRICS & GYNAECOLOGY
MBBS, MD OG, DNB (OG)