Fibroids: Fertility, Pregnancy and Periods
According to medical health sources, the definition of uterine fibroids is as follows:
Fibroids are growths of tissue that are usually found in the wall of the uterus, or womb. They are made of a mixture of muscle tissue from the uterus and threadlike fibers of connective tissue. Although they are called tumors, fibroids are not cancerous. Fibroids usually shrink after menopause. New fibroids do not develop before puberty or after menopause. They are also called leiomyoma, or myoma of the uterus.
The cause of fibroids is a mystery. However, their growth has been linked to the female hormone, estrogen. As long as a woman menstruates, the fibroid will probably continue growing slowly. When the level of estrogen is high, as is the case when a woman is pregnant, the rate of growth increases. They vary in size from microscopic to massive, filling the entire uterus, and are found in the muscle wall of the uterus, under the surface of the uterine lining, under the outside covering of the uterus or on a stalk, either inside or outside of the uterus.
Fibroids and Fertility
When a woman wants to conceive a pregnancy and she knows she has fibroids, it follows that she will be concerned as to whether or not she'll be able to conceive. There is evidence that indicates the effect of fibroids on fertility has been linked with a reduction in the effectiveness of fertility treatments. Yet, it is a cause of discussion as to how or why this happens because many women with fibroids have full term, healthy pregnancies. There are a couple of theories on the subject. One is that fibroids distort the shape of the uterus making conception difficult and the other is that carrying a pregnancy is compromised because fibroids affect the flow of blood.
Fibroids affect the fertility of about three percent of women. If you have fibroids and you've had difficulty conceiving, see your doctor. He or she may refer you to a fertility specialist who will determine what type of treatment is best to help you.
Fibroids and Pregnancy
Generally speaking, fibroids do not affect conception or pregnancy. However, they can and do cause miscarriages. Once a pregnancy is conceived and the fertilized egg makes its way to implant in the uterus, if there is a submucosal fibroid close by (one that grows on the inside wall of the uterus) it can thin the lining of the uterus and decrease the blood supply available for the embryo. The fibroid can also be the cause of inflammation in the uterus lining. As a result, the fetus is unable to mature properly and a miscarriage occurs. A subsequent pregnancy may be fine if the implantation takes place in another part of the uterus. Regardless, if a uterine fibroid is present and a miscarriage occurs, the fibroid should be removed.
Most fibroids stop growing during pregnancy but pregnancy can have different effects upon fibroids that do grow. Genetic changes and growth factors in the blood during pregnancy affect the growth of the tumors. About 33 percent of pregnant women experience fibroid growth and the tumors usually shrink after the birth of the baby.
Studies show that the risks of fibroids during pregnancy include:
· premature delivery
· fetal growth problems
· fetal abnormalities
· problems with the placenta
· heavy bleeding after the baby is born
It's important to note that all of these risks are present in a pregnancy where there are no fibroids. But, there are times when a fibroid can interfere with the delivery of a baby in which case a cesarean section will be performed.
Fibroids and Periods
Perhaps the best known impact is that of fibroids on periods. Although there are often no symptoms of fibroids, they can cause problems for women in the following ways:
· bleeding that occurs between periods
· menorrhagia, heavy menstrual bleeding, sometimes passing clots
· longer than normal menstrual periods
· feeling the need to urinate more frequently
· pain and pelvic cramping with periods
· pain during intercourse
· a sensation of fullness in the lower abdomen
In order to discover fibroids, a doctor has to do an internal exam. This will also reveal if the uterus has been misshapen as a result of the tumors.
For more information about fibroids and pregnancy you can read further in this section.
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