Uterine fibroids are growths that form in the uterus. Though they don’t always cause symptoms, they can interfere with pregnancy and childbirth. There are several types of uterine fibroids that can affect your fertility.
What are uterine fibroids?
Also known as leiomyoma, uterine fibroids grow in the wall of the uterus and are almost always benign. They can range in size from as small as an apple seed to as large as a grapefruit. Most women develop fibroids at some point in their lives. In fact, studies indicate that 70 - 80% of women will develop fibroids by the age of 50.
The exact cause of fibroids is unknown. However, certain factors can increase your risk of developing them, such as:
- Family history
- Eating habits
- Ethnic origin
Fibroids and fertility
Uterine fibroids do not always interfere with becoming pregnant. However, in some cases, they can interfere with implantation and cause complications during pregnancy or childbirth. For some women, fibroids can increase their risk of a preterm delivery or cause them to need a cesarean section.
Symptoms of uterine fibroids
Most women with uterine fibroids don’t have symptoms. However, the most common signs of this condition include:
- Pelvic pressure or pain
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Periods lasting more than a week
- Back pain
- Leg pains
- Frequent urination
- Issues emptying the bladder
- Pain during intercourse
Depending on their location, uterine fibroids can also affect fertility or cause miscarriages. In some cases, your doctor will notice fibroids during a routine pelvic exam. Our team will typically perform an ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or lab tests to confirm their presence and investigate potential causes.
Treatments for uterine fibroids
For women without symptoms, there is often no reason to treat fibroids. However, if you have symptoms or are struggling with fertility, we may recommend treatment.
Your doctor can explain the different treatment options available to you. Your doctor will likely consider:
- The size of the fibroids
- Your symptoms
- If you want to become pregnant
- The location of the fibroids
- Your age
- How close you are to menopause
The most common treatments for fibroids are medication and surgery. Typically, medication is used to relieve mild symptoms, such as discomfort, anemia, or heavy bleeding. Medical therapy does not address the fibroids themselves, and symptoms will return as soon as you stop taking the medication.
If your fibroids are interfering with your pregnancy or you want a permanent solution, surgery may be a better treatment option. For women who wish to become pregnant, a myomectomy can remove fibroids without affecting healthy uterine tissue. Other surgical solutions can improve your ability to become pregnant.