Facts about uterine fibroids and pregnancy

Every one in eight couples struggles to get pregnant. One of the major reasons for the staggering infertility rate in India is uterine fibroids. The problem of uterine fibroids is not exclusive to any particular age group. According to the CDC,  between the ages of 15 and 44, 12 percent of women are unable to get pregnant or complete their pregnancy period.

How do fibroids affect fertility?

You’ll be glad to know that you can get pregnant even if you have developed fibroids inside the uterus. You can conceive through the natural process. In almost rare cases, fibroids can affect fertility in women. Depending on the size and where the fibroid is located, uterine fibroids can affect fertility in the following ways-

  • The fallopian tubes can get blocked by fibroids which makes the implantation of the fertilized egg difficult.
  • If the fibroid grows near the cervix, it narrows the passage through which the sperms enter. Narrower the passage, lesser sperms that enter the uterus.
  • The movement of sperm or embryo is also affected due to abnormal growth in the uterus.
  • The thickness of the uterine lining is also affected.
  • Due to the abnormal growth of fibroids, the blood supply to the uterine cavity is affected.

How do fibroids affect pregnancy?

Pregnant women are more likely to develop uterine fibroids during the second trimester of the pregnancy. The percentage of expecting mothers who are likely developing this condition is very low. The most common complication that women experience during pregnancy is pain. Other complications that can arise during pregnancy due to uterine fibroids are-

  • Fetal growth restriction. When the fibroids grow large in size inside the uterus, they take up a lot of room due to which the fetus is unable to grow fully.
  • Abruption of the placenta. The placenta can sometimes break away from the uterine wall of the mother as this can get blocked by the fibroid. This break cuts off the supply of oxygen and vital nutrients to the fetus.
  • Preterm delivery. You can go for early labor if you experience extreme pain caused due to the fibroids.
  • C-section delivery. To ensure that your baby is safe and sound, women suffering from fibroids are often asked to undergo cesarean delivery.
  • Breech position. As there is not much room left inside the uterus for the baby, a normal delivery won’t be possible.
  • There are very high chances of miscarriage for pregnant women suffering from fibroids.

Can fibroids be treated during pregnancy?

The treatment options for treating uterine fibroids during pregnancy are very limited as this poses a risk to the fetus. Doctors recommend expectant mothers to take rest, keep themselves hydrates and consume mild pain killers to get relief from some of the symptoms of fibroids. Doctors prescribe myomectomy in women during the second half of the pregnancy. These are performed only when the fibroids are formed outside the uterine cavity so that the fetus is not harmed in any way.

How To Treat Fibroids To Increase Chances of Pregnancy?

Some of the treatment options that increase the chances of conceiving are mentioned below.

  • Myomectomy- It is the surgical procedure to remove fibroids. This increases the chances of cesarean delivery.
  • Hormonal birth control pills- These pills can help you get relief from the symptoms of fibroids such as heavy bleeding.
  • Intrauterine devices- These devices will help you restrict the risk of getting pregnant.
  • Myolysis- The blood vessels that connect the fibroids are destroyed using a radiofrequency beam or laser beam.

What are the signs and symptoms of uterine fibroids?

You may not experience any symptoms of fibroids. The most common one you can experience are-

  • Abnormal periods
  • Spotting
  • Anemia caused due to heavy bleeding
  • Pain during sex
  • Mild pressure in the lower abdomen
  • Low back pain
  • Constipation
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Reproductive issues such as infertility, miscarriage and early labor

Takeaway

In conclusion, we can say that uterine fibroids can lower the fertility rate in women. In addition to infertility, pregnant women are at the risk of facing various complications. Although there are medications that can cure the symptoms, a permanent solution is also available. The surgical removal of the uterus (hysterectomy) using the laparoscopic technique is one such treatment option. Consult a gynecologist as soon as possible if you experience any symptoms of fibroids.

About the Author:
Dr. Garima Sawhney

MBBS, M.S | Gynaecologist & Obstetrician, trained in Cosmetic & Aesthetic Gynaecology (ESAG), Specialist in Minimal Access Surgery