July marks Fibroid Awareness Month and as such we have put together a list of frequently asked questions regarding fibroids and their impact on fertility.

What are fibroids?

Fibroids, also called leiomyomas or myomas, are benign growths in or on the uterus. They are estrogen-dependent, non-cancerous lesions that can vary in shape, size, and location.

How common are fibroids? 

According to the National Institute of Health, as many as 80% of uterus owners will develop fibroids by the age of 50. 

It is important to note that Black women have higher incidences of uterine fibroids and their uterine fibroids tend to be more severe (Eltoukhi et al , 2014).

What causes fibroids?

The cause of uterine fibroids has not been determined. Fibroids usually begin to form during reproductive age and may shrink as hormone levels naturally fall with age (menopause).  Genetics may play a role in fibroid formation since we know that some patients with fibroids have a family history of the condition. Patients with high blood pressure or who are overweight may also have an increased chance of developing fibroids.

What are the risks associated with fibroids? Can fibroids cause infertility? 

Fibroids don’t always affect fertility, but when they become very large or enter into the uterine cavity, they can affect your ability to become pregnant. Depending on the type of fibroids, they may affect fertility by impacting ovulation, fertilization, or implantation. For example, they may cause blockage of the fallopian tubes, distort the size or shape of the uterine lining, or interrupt blood flow to the uterine cavity. Fibroids may also interfere with sperm or embryo movement and certain types can increase your risk of pregnancy complications.

The four main fibroid types are:

  • Intramural—Grow within the muscular uterine wall
  • Submucosal—Project into the uterine cavity
  • Subserosal—Extend outside of the uterus
  • Pedunculated—Connected by a stalk-like growth to the uterine wall

What are the symptoms of fibroids?

Common symptoms of uterine fibroids include heavy bleeding, pelvic pain, cramping, and pressure. They may also include long menstrual cycles (longer than 7 days), pain during intercourse, frequent urination, constipation, backaches, or leg pain.

Some patients may experience no symptoms of uterine fibroids, so it’s always important to have regular gynecological exams. 

How are fibroids diagnosed?

Fibroids are usually easy to identify in a pelvic exam and your fertility specialist may use lab tests, sonograms, or other imaging to evaluate your condition.

How are fibroids treated?

If fibroids are small and produce no symptoms, treatment may not be required.

If fibroids cause painful symptoms or affect fertility, we can offer several effective treatment options. 

Your Kindbody fertility specialist will work with you to evaluate these options based on your reproductive age, symptoms, the size of the growth, and your personal reproductive plan.

Treatment options include:

  • Hormone Therapies

Medications can treat symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding and pelvic pressure by targeting the hormones that stimulate fibroid growth. Medications won’t eliminate fibroids, but they can help by causing them to shrink and mitigating other symptoms in order to help you resume normal life.

  • Surgery 

Depending on your specific diagnosis, your fertility specialist may recommend surgery to treat fibroids. At Kindbody, we offer a range of surgical options that allow our expert team of physicians to target your unique needs. When required, we also collaborate with your OB/GYN to facilitate treatment so that together, we can help you achieve your reproductive goals.

  • Alternative Treatments

For patients unable to become pregnant after fibroid treatment, Kindbody offers a number of treatment options, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). We will collaborate with you throughout your fertility journey to help you understand your options and determine the best path for treatment.

If you suspect you have fibroids, when should you see a doctor?

If you have been diagnosed with uterine fibroids or are experiencing fibroid symptoms, it is important to see a physician even if you are not actively trying to become pregnant. Our experienced fertility specialists will help evaluate your condition and determine potential treatment options. 

Sources:

Eltoukhi, H. M.;  Modi, M.N.; Weston, M.; Armstrong, A.Y;  Stewart E.A. (2014). The health disparities of uterine fibroid tumors for African American women: a public health issue. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 210(3), 194–199. 

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Kindbody
Kindbody is a new generation of women's health and fertility care. Providing you with the information you need to take control of your health and make the decisions that are right for you. We’re a community of healthcare providers, fertility specialists, and women who get it. We’re on a mission to democratize and de-stigmatize women’s health and fertility care, making it accessible, intuitive, and empowering.