There’s a common misconception about fibroids getting in the way of pregnancy. Actually the good news is that in most cases fibroids are harmless and don’t interfere in the conception process.
So What Exactly Are Uterine Fibroids?
Fibroids are abnormal outgrowths formed out of the uterus wall cells. They are non-cancerous tumours and are clinically termed leiomyoma or myoma. They could be formed on the outside or inside wall of the uterus and can be as small as a pea or as large as a football. Even large-sized fibroids are most often benign and do not pose any risk of cancer.
Depending on where the fibroids are situated, they are classified into different types:
Submucosal fibroids are located beneath the endometrium, the innermost lining of the uterus. They cramp up the endometrial space and can affect your fertility. Submucosal fibroids can also result in heavy or painful periods.
Intramural fibroids are those which are located within the uterine wall. This is the most common type of fibroid. It can distort the shape of the uterine cavity and make it look bigger. It could also cause heavy or painful periods and fertility problems.
Subserol fibrods are almost completely on the outside of the uterus. While this may not impact embryo growth itself, the size of the fibroid may affect other organs. Very large subserosal fibroids may distort the pelvic anatomy and put pressure on the bladder or bowels.
Cervical fibroids are located in cervical region which is the neck of the uterus.
What causes Fibroids?
The exact cause of fibroids is not known. However, experts believe that it is linked closely to estrogen, the female reproductive hormone. During the reproductive age, when the estrogen levels are high, fibroids swell, and with age, as the levels of hormone decrease, the fibroids shrink.
Can fibroids hamper your chances of pregnancy?
Since fibroids can crowd up your uterus and alter its shape and size, researchers believe it can hinder conception and pregnancy. A lot depends on where the fibroid is situated. But, it has also been proved that fibroids rarely pose a serious issue during conception. In fact, fibroids are often blamed for infertility and removing them can significantly improve the chances of fertility.
Submucosal fibroids, which can take up much space within the uterus, can interfere with implantation and embryo growth. The demand for blood supply from the fibroids can affect blood supply to the embryo and pregnancy could result in miscarriage or pre-term labour.
How would you know if you have fibroids?
Normally fibroids don’t show symptoms if you’re under 30 years. A few women who do show signs of fibroids may experience symptoms like:
- Excessive and prolonged menstrual bleeding
- Painful periods
- Frequent urination, caused due to the enlarged uterus applying pressure on the bladder
- Back and abdominal pain and sometimes, in the hip area, all of which depend on where your fibroid is located
- Bloated feeling, often resulting in constipation
- Difficulty in conceiving
Read: Infertility Among Women
Can fibroids be removed?
Most fibroids are left untreated, unless they are causing severe problems like painful periods and excessive bleeding. However, your doctor will be the best person to give you advice on this.
The best way to remove fibroids is to have them removed surgically. The procedure called, mymectomy, removes only the fibroids leaving the uterus intact. This surgery is recommended for women who still wish to conceive. But mymectomy is not suitable for all women because it depends on the size and location of the fibroids.
Fibroids could also be removed through hysterectomy. However, this involves removing the uterus itself. So this is not recommended for those who planning on conceiving.
Removal of the inner lining of the endometrium:
This is a non-invasive procedure. This involves the scraping the top layer of tissue in the uterus to remove the submucosal fibroids which have grown along the wall of the uterus. This layer of tissue will start growing back after a while and you can resume to try for a baby.
Fibroids can be treated medically through oral medication. However they have temporary effect in shrinking the fibroids.
Gonadotrophin-releasing hormone analogues (GnRHas) can effectively bring down the levels of oestrogen and help suppress fibroid growth temporarily. The treatment normally lasts for about 3-6 months after which you can start trying for a baby.
Fibroids often continue growing once hormone therapy stops, so they can be useful for shrinking fibroids before surgery. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be given alongside to ease the side-effects.
Read: Early Pregnancy Tests
Fibroids during Pregnancy
If you’ve conceived while fibroids are present, they are likely to increase in size. While in most cases, they don’t cause much trouble, in some women it could lead to a miscarriage or a preterm labor. If fibroids continue to grow, they can cause postpartum hemorrhage. Large fibroids could cause difficulty during labor by obstructing the birth canal or necessitate a cesarean delivery. Fibroid growth inside the uterus can affect the baby’s position in the womb. Since fibroids don’t normally interfere with pregnancy, they are left alone and not treated.
Tips & Tricks
Dieting during pregnancy can cause abnormalities and a low birth weight in your baby; therefore your ideal weight should be reached before pregnancy.
Taking folic acid in its natural form before pregnancy can prevent serious birth defects. You can find them in fruits and vegetables, fortified cereals, and enriched bread products. If you’re planning to conceive, you should consume at least 400 micrograms of folic acid a day.
If you are on contraceptive pills, it could take a few months before your periods are regular and you begin ovulating again. It usually is best to stop the pills at the end of a cycle to avoid mid-cycle bleeding.
Before buying a home pregnancy test kit, be sure to check the expiry date. For accurate results, take the test after one week after the missed period; testing very early, can give you negative results.
Green tea and orange pekoe (popularly known as 'regular') are considered to be excellent fertility enhancers. Research has shown that women who regularly drink tea, increase their chance of conception.