Uterine Fibroids: Four Things Every Woman Should Know

Majority of women of childbearing age develop fibroids at some point in their lives. Oftentimes, fibroids are minor and may be treated through non-surgical procedures; other times, they can be severe and may require surgical treatment procedures. Access Vascular Health offers less-invasive treatment procedures for fibroids and other related conditions. However, below are some things to know about fibroids.

What Are Uterine fibroids

Uterine fibroids, also known as leiomyomas, are abnormal growths that develop in the uterus. They comprise uterine muscles and connective tissues from the uterine wall. They can be classified into the following groups based on their location in the uterus.

  • Subserosal fibroids: This type of fibroid develops outside the uterus, and they are the most common type of fibroid.
  • Intramural fibroids: These are fibroids that develop inside the muscular tissues of the uterine walls.
  • Submucosal fibroids: These are fibroids that grow into the open space of the uterus.

Fibroids can grow in various sizes and numbers. They can range between single growths to multiple growths, with each growth ranging between the size of a seed to extremely large proportions.

Are Uterine Fibroids Cancerous?

Fibroids are mostly non-malignant. According to research, only about one out of a thousand cases turn out cancerous – a condition known as leiomyosarcoma. Although most fibroids are non-cancerous, they can cause several problems during pregnancy. Large fibroids can push the uterus out of shape, increasing the chances of a miscarriage. Also, fibroids can cause difficulties in conception if they obstruct the fallopian tubes or distort the menstrual cycle.

What Causes Uterine Fibroids

The causes of uterine fibroids are uncertain; however, numerous research suggests that several factors contribute to their development. These factors include:

  • Genetics: Having a family history of fibroids increases a person’s chance of developing fibroids.
  • Age: increase in age exposes women to the risk of developing fibroids. Up to 60-70% of women develop fibroid from the age of 30 through menopause.
  • Ethnicity: Studies have revealed a higher occurrence of fibroids in women of color compared to white women.
  • Obesity: Women with higher body weight are more prone to develop fibroids than women with average weight. For women who are obese, the risk is about three times higher than average.
  • Eating habits: A high consumption of red meat and ham has also been linked to the growth of fibroids.
  • Hormonal levels: increase in estrogen and progesterone levels have been suggested to play a role in the development of fibroids.

Although the causes of fibroids are not known, hormonal levels are one of the major factors that influence the development of fibroids. During pregnancy, when hormone levels are high, fibroids grow at a rapid rate. Alternatively, they also shrink or stop growing when a woman reaches menopause.

What are the symptoms of fibroids?

Most women with fibroids do not experience any symptoms; however, some women may experience several symptoms, which include the following.

  • Painful periods
  • Heavy bleeding (which can be heavy enough to cause anemia)
  • Frequent urination
  • Lower back pain
  • Protruded abdomen
  • Tight feeling in the abdomen
  • Pain during sex
  • Reproductive problems (although rare)

What if I Have Fibroids And Get Pregnant

Fibroids increase the chances of a high-risk pregnancy. That is, women with fibroids are more likely to have complications during pregnancy and labor than women who do not have fibroids. Some common risks associated with fibroid include:

  • Preterm delivery
  • Cesarean section
  • Breech birth
  • Non-progressive labor
  • Placenta abruption

Placenta abruption occurs when the placenta breaks away from the uterine wall before delivery. A placenta abruption cuts off the oxygen supply to the fetus, leading to fetal distress.

Some women who have fibroids may experience fewer complications during pregnancy, while others may experience high-risk pregnancies. If you become pregnant, you should talk with your obstetrician. Obstetricians are trained to handle whatever complications that may arise during pregnancy, including fibroid.

Treatment Options For Fibroid

Fibroids can be treated through surgical methods and nonsurgical methods, depending on the severity. Non-surgical methods include Uterine Fibroid Embolization, the use of  NSAIDs, the use of radiofrequency ablation, the use of tranexamic drugs, etc. While surgical methods include Myomectomy (surgical removal of the fibroid without removing the uterus) and hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus).

If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, it’s likely you have an undiagnosed fibroid or any other similar condition, such as polyps. Consult your doctor for an accurate diagnosis for your symptoms and also to discuss the safest treatment options for you.

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