Normally, uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths that are made of muscle and fibrous tissue and develop in or around the uterus. Also known as uterine myomas or leiomyomas, uterine fibroids aren’t usually associated with an increased risk of uterine cancer and almost never develop into cancer.
Fibroids can grow anywhere in the womb and vary in size, being as small as an apple seed or as big as a grapefruit.
Just like ovarian cysts, fibroids are very common and are mostly harmless, however, they have very different characteristics – ovarian cysts are fluid-filled growths that develop in the ovaries, whereas fibroids grow on the uterus. Learn more about ovarian cysts here.
Although most women are unaware, they have uterine fibroids as they rarely cause any symptoms, some women can experience these symptoms of fibroids:
– Heavy or painful periods
– Abdominal pain
– Lower back pain
– The feeling of fullness in the lower pelvic area
– Frequent need to urinate
– Constipation or painful defecation
– Pain during sexual intercourse
In rare cases, further complications caused by uterine fibroids can cause infertility.
Fibroids are very common, with around 1 in 3 women developing them at some point in their lives.
There are factors that can increase the risks of women developing uterine fibroids:
– Age. Fibroids most often occur in women aged 30 to 50.
– Family history. Having a family member with fibroids increases the risk of developing them, especially if a woman’s mother had fibroids.
– Obesity. Being overweight increases the level of oestrogen, which increases the risk of developing uterine fibroids. Read more about weight and fertility here.
– Eating habits. Eating a lot of processed foods or red meat (e.g. beef or pork) can be linked to a higher possibility of fibroids. Learn more about the fertility diet here.
The exact causes of uterine fibroids are unknown, but they have been mainly linked to genetic and hormonal factors, such as levels of oestrogen and progesterone.
Fibroids usually develop during a woman’s reproductive years from around the age of 16 to 50, when oestrogen levels are at their highest and tend to shrink after menopause when oestrogen levels are low.
Uterine fibroids are a common cause of infertility, depending on the fibroid size and position in the uterus.
Uterine fibroids can affect fertility in different ways:
– By changing the shape of your uterus
– By blocking the fallopian tubes, which prevents a fertilised egg from being able to implant.
Early diagnosis and treatment can help to prevent this damage. If untreated, fibroids can lead to long-term infertility and recurrent miscarriages.
Fibroids do not need to be treated if they are not causing symptoms, however, if you already have a diagnosis of fibroids, or you may be concerned that your difficulties in conceiving may be related to undiagnosed fibroids, we are ready to support you.
We will fully review your history and symptoms, as well as your hopes and plans to have a baby, and undertake tests and procedures to find out if you have fibroids, how severe it is and plan necessary treatment for fibroids to remove them:
– A pelvic examination and pelvic ultrasound
– Blood tests
– A laparoscopy – keyhole surgery
– Myomectomy – removal of fibroids
– Hysteroscopy – examination of the womb
You won’t have to wait long for a diagnosis or prognosis. We will discuss the effect of the fibroids on your fertility, together with the treatment for fibroids that we provide to improve your chances of becoming pregnant.