Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous uterine growths and are common among women of reproductive age. They can significantly impact a woman’s life and present unique challenges during pregnancy.
If you have a history of fibroids, it’s natural to be concerned about how they may affect your pregnancy and what treatment options are available. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of this medical condition, allowing you to make informed decisions about your reproductive journey.
What are fibroids?
Fibroids, also known as uterine myomas or leiomyomas, are non-cancerous uterus growths that develop in or around the women’s wombs (uterus). They are made up of muscles and fibrous tissues and can occur in women of reproductive years, typically between the ages of 16 and 50. Fibroids can vary in shape and size, and while they are generally non-cancerous, they can cause symptoms and may require treatment.
What are some common signs and symptoms?
Fibroids often go unnoticed in many women as they may not produce signs or symptoms. However, in cases where symptoms are present, pregnant women may experience the following:
- Heavy or painful periods
- Severe abdominal pain and cramps
- Spotting (bleeding between periods)
- Lower back pain
- Digestion issues, including constipation and gas
- Frequent urination (since fibroids put a strain on the bladder)
- Having difficulty emptying your bladder
- Pain or discomfort during intercourse
How do fibroids affect pregnancy?
Many pregnant women do not experience a significant impact of fibroids on their pregnancy. However, they can sometimes cause complications during pregnancy, depending on their size and location. Some of these complications include:
- Pregnancy loss or miscarriage
- Fetal growth restriction
- Placental abruption
- Preterm labor (early labor)
- Obstructed labor (a failure to progress due to physical problems)
- Premature rupture of fetal membranes (PROM), which causes the water to break early
- Hemorrhage (bleeding) shortly before or after delivery
- Malpresentation (this condition occurs when the fetus is not in the proper position)
Occasionally, fibroids can prevent pregnancy by causing infertility. Depending on their size and location, they can interfere with fertilized egg implantation or clog the fallopian tubes, preventing sperm movement.
When to see your doctor?
In most cases, fibroids are typically harmless and may not produce noticeable symptoms. They are often diagnosed incidentally during routine gynecological check-ups or imaging tests. However, if you are pregnant and experience symptoms associated with fibroids, it is best to consult your doctor for further investigation. Your doctor may advise a pelvic exam, laparoscopy, or USG in pregnancy to confirm the diagnosis and explore treatment options.
How are fibroids treated during pregnancy?
In most cases, if fibroids are not causing any complications, treatment may not be necessary. However, your doctor may recommend treatment based on factors such as:
- Your discomfort
- Pain or bleeding during pregnancy
- The rate of fibroid growth or changes
- Your age
If you experience pain or discomfort during pregnancy, your doctor may advise bed rest, staying hydrated, and taking mild pain relievers. In some situations, pregnant women with fibroids may require hospitalization due to symptoms like pain, bleeding, or the risk of preterm labor. Although rare, a myomectomy surgery may be recommended to treat fibroids during pregnancy.
Myomectomy involves removing fibroids from the uterus while preserving the uterus itself. However, this procedure is not commonly performed during pregnancy as it can cause further complications. Myomectomy is generally safer to wait until after birth to remove the fibroids if possible.
Fibroids can significantly impact a woman’s reproductive journey. Understanding the signs, impact, and treatment options can help women make informed decisions and ensure a healthy pregnancy.