Fibroids are round muscle growths and develop in the uterus and are formed when a single muscle cell in the uterus rapidly multiples to form benign growths. They can be asymptomatic (no symptoms) or can cause heavy, painful menstruation. Fibroids can distort the shape and size of the uterus depending upon where they’re located.
What are Fibroids?
Fibroids can grow in multiple places within the uterus and are classified by location:
- Subserosal: These are fibroids located in the outside wall of the uterus (these fibroids are more superficial and covered by a shiny membrane, thin layer of cells, that covers the outside of most organs and secretes fluids)
- Submuscosal: Fibroids that go into the cavity of the uterus. Inside the uterus where a baby would grow)
- Intramural: Fibroids located in the muscle layer of the uterus (myometrium)
Anyone with a uterus can get fibroids. Approximately 50-70% of people with a uterus will have a fibroid at some point in their life. While there seems to be a large genetic component involved in this disease, there are also many environmental factors that can be at play.
Hormonal levels such as estrogen and progesterone are also thought to be risk factors of fibroid development, although this is also poorly understood.
Additionally, lifestyle changes in diet and regular exercise can help to prevent fibroid development. Interestingly, Vitamin D deficiency seems to be a risk factor and is a possible source of treatment or preventive measure for fibroids.
More research into the causes of fibroids is necessary for a better understanding and treatment of this condition.
Fibroids and Fertility
Unfortunately, the link between fibroids and infertility is poorly understood and inconsistent within the scientific literature. Typically, the location of the fibroid is indicative of the symptoms you are likely to develop. For example, fibroids may cause some problems with trying to conceive if they are located in the endometrial layer where the embryo would normally implant. However, most people who have fibroids will not have problems with infertility. It is important to talk to your doctor about the location of your fibroid and whether it is likely to impact your fertility.
Although fibroids generally do not cause problems with pregnancy, they can cause complications in rare circumstances, which directly correlates with the size of the fibroid. These include preterm delivery, breeching, placental abruption, and the need for a cesarean section. Fibroids are often first identified during ultrasound for pregnancy and will be monitored for growth over the course of your pregnancy.
The treatment options for fibroids will depend on the progression and severity of your symptoms. Many fibroids will go away on their own, so if you are not experiencing pain, discomfort, or infertility, your doctor may advise you to wait and monitor your symptoms and the size of the fibroid.
For women that are trying to conceive and have fibroids interfering with their fertility, a surgical operation called a Myomectomy is performed to remove fibroids. In a myomectomy, fibroids are removed laparoscopically, through a small incision in the belly, or through the cervix, depending on the location of the fibroid. Myomectomy is the best treatment option for women who have fibroid symptoms and want to have a baby one day.
Your doctor or fertility specialist will consult you about your treatment and the best options for you.