Uterine fibroids, also known as leiomyoma, are small and smooth tumors that develop in the uterus. The potential effect of these tumors on pregnancy or vice versa is a cause for clinical concern. The tumors mostly develop in women who are in their reproductive stage. Though most women who suffer from fibroids do not experience complications related to them during pregnancy, they experience pain. In addition, there is always a probable risk of obstetric complications that include preterm labor, miscarriage, preterm delivery, malpresentation of the fetus and abruption of the placenta. For women who are not pregnant, fibroids might lead to problems with fertility.
This article will review major issues and problems you might face as a result of uterine fibroids.
Symptoms and Effects of Uterine Fibroids on Pregnancy
The research also confirmed that the most common complication that arises from fibroids during pregnancy is pain. Let us look at the various issues that might arise during your pregnancy.
Typically, fibroids don’t grow during pregnancy. However, if they do, it mostly happens during the first trimester. This is the most likely time because fibroids are highly dependent on a hormone called estrogen to grow, and the body produces more of it during pregnancy. Some of the problems that you might develop during this period include the following:
- Pain and bleeding: Approximately 11 percent of women with fibroids also experience bleeding. Others might experience pain, while some experience both pain and bleeding.
- Chance of miscarriage: Research indicates that women with fibroids have a higher chance of miscarriage than women without them. The chance of miscarriage increases with the size of the fibroids.
During the second trimester, your uterus expands to make enough room for your baby. During this period, you are bound to experience pain since the baby pushes against the fibroids.
Some of the major issues that you might experience in this stage of pregnancy include the following:
- Pain: At this stage, this is the most common sign of fibroids. The pain could get unbearable, especially if the fibroids are large. Essentially, large fibroids can get twisted due to the constant pushing and movement. This leads to painful cramping and discomfort. However, there are times that the fibroids will outgrow their blood supply and die in a process called red degeneration. If this happens, you would experience severe stomach pain. In some cases, red degeneration could lead to miscarriage. During this period, you might want to use over-the-counter pain medication. When doing so, avoid ibuprofen since it can lead to pregnancy problems that could lead to miscarriage.
- Abruption of the placenta: Studies have also indicated that you have a higher chance of experiencing placental abruption if you have fibroids. Essentially, this is the tearing away of the placenta from the uterine wall. You can experience heavy bleeding if this happens, and your baby won’t get the required oxygen. Placental abruption can also make you go into shock.
- Preterm delivery: With fibroids, you are more likely to deliver your baby early.
Effects of Fibroids on Fertility
Typically, women with fibroids can get pregnant naturally. In most cases, treatment might not be necessary for conception. However, there are cases of fibroids preventing pregnancy.
For instance, submucosal fibroids tend to bulge into the uterine cavity. Consequently, they can increase the risk of pregnancy loss or infertility.
Treating Fibroids During Pregnancy
Treatment of fibroids during pregnancy is not advisable since it is risky for the fetus. However, your health care provider may recommend hydration, rest and mild pain relievers to manage your uterine fibroid symptoms.
In very rare instances, your doctor might perform a myomectomy if you are in the second half of the pregnancy. The procedure extracts the fibroids from outside the uterine wall or within the uterine wall while leaving the uterus intact. If the fibroids are in your uterine cavity, any procedure to remove them poses a risk to the fetus.
Treating Fibroids Before Pregnancy
If you are not pregnant, uterine fibroids are treatable through various birth-control methods. Additionally, your provider can initiate a set of procedures to eliminate the fibroids by killing their blood supply. These treatment options include the following:
Intrauterine device to prevent pregnancy and preserve fertility
- Hormone-based birth control to prevent pregnancy and keep your ability to get pregnant
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist helps in blocking the production of hormones that cause ovulation
- Myolysis, which is a procedure that kills and shrinks the blood vessels that feed your fibroids
Uterine fibroids can be a big source of discomfort and pain. In severe cases, fatalities can occur. However, the problem might exist without your knowledge and without causing you any harm. Therefore, when you develop painful symptoms, it is time to seek medical attention. If fibroids are the source of your pain, you should get them removed before pregnancy. Having this done before conception is easier and less risky than during pregnancy.