Fibroids and Pregnancy
If you are pregnant, you have likely already gone for a pelvic exam or ultrasound examination. These exams help your health care provider get an idea of the health of your uterus and baby. During these exams, many pregnant women discover that they have uterine fibroids. These masses, which grown in or on the uterus, are typically harmless and cause few complications. Occasionally, however, uterine fibroids can cause problems during pregnancy, so it is a good idea to find out more about their growth.
What are Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are large masses made up of tissue cells from your uterus. Actually a type of non-cancerous tumor, fibroids can grow in and around your uterus, distorting the shape and size of this organ. Fibroids typically range in size, from just a few centimeters in length to up to 15 centimeters or more. Fibroid tumors often grow in clusters, so if you have one uterine fibroid, it is likely that you may also have more.
Fibroids are actually quite common - between 50% and 80% of all women have at least one. For the most part, these fibroids cause no symptoms, though they can be problematic for about 20% of women. Between 10% and 30% of pregnant women also have fibroids. Uterine fibroids are usually discovered during your annual pelvic exam.
Types of Uterine Fibroids
There are three types of uterine fibroids, classified according to where they grow in your uterus.
- Intramural: Intramural fibroids grow inside the wall of your uterus. They are the most common type of fibroids.
- Subserosal: Subserosal fibroids grow on the outside of the uterus, and can swell to large sizes. Sometimes these fibroids grow on a stalk and reach out towards other organs.
- Submucosal: Submucosal fibroids grow inside the uterus. They account for only 5% of all uterine fibroids.
Who Gets Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids can affect any woman at any age. In fact, if your health care provider looked hard enough, she could probably find a small fibroid in pretty much any woman. However, certain women are at increased risk of developing uterine fibroids. Women between the ages of 20 and 50 are more likely to develop larger fibroids. Women of African descent are also more likely to develop fibroids.