11 Jan Uterine fibroids – 10 things you should know
Uterine fibroids – they sound scary. But are they really a barrier to pregnancy? As medical conditions go, uterine fibroids are majorly misunderstood. We think it’s time to set the record straight. So these are the top 10 things you should know about uterine fibroids.
1. They aren’t cancerous.
A common misconception is that uterine fibroids are cancerous – or can develop into cancer. Not true. They’re benign growths in the muscle of the womb. Many women have them, often without knowing it. They’re also called myomas or leiomyomas.
2. They’re very common.
Uterine fibroids happen a lot. In fact, you’ve got a 30-per-cent chance of getting one at some point in your life. They usually make an appearance between puberty and the menopause. Afro-Caribbean women are twice as likely to have them. But Caucasian women can’t be complacent.
3. Most are harmless – fertility-wise.
The big myth about uterine fibroids is that they reduce your chances of getting pregnant. Not accurate. Of the four main types of uterine fibroid – subserous, intramural, submucosal and pedunculated – only submucosal ones are a significant danger to conception and pregnancy. That’s because they bulge into the uterine cavity, potentially affecting embryo implantation and fetal growth. Thankfully, they’re also the least common of the four.
4. Size matters – and where it is.
Uterine fibroids vary in size. Many are microscopic. A small few are as big as oranges. But even if you have a submucosal fibroid (the scary one), its size and position usually means there’s no pregnancy or miscarriage threat.
5. Your chances.
Fibroids are pretty random. You’re more likely to get them when you’re over 30, had your first period at an early age or if there’s a family history. Your chances are lower if you’ve had children or the menopause. Or if you’re taking birth control pills, which can regulate estrogen levels.
6. The three ‘safe’ fibroids.
Intramural fibroids (the most common) stay in the uterine wall. Subserosal fibroids bulge from the outer wall into the pelvis. Pedunculated fibroids, attached to a stalk, stay away from the uterine cavity too. So all three won’t usually affect an embryo.
7. Symptoms? Not always nice.
70 per cent of women with fibroids have no symptoms. The remainder can experience heavier and longer periods, lower abdominal pain, constipation and pain during sex.
8. How to spot them.
A good doctor can feel large uterine fibroids during a manual inspection. But nothing beats a trans-vaginal ultrasound scan for diagnosis. An HSG might also do the trick. And a hysteroscopy can see, and sometimes treat, fibroids in one go. Your doctor might schedule a biopsy to rule out cancer. Don’t panic – uterine cancer is rare.
9. To treat or not to treat.
As mentioned, most uterine fibroids are harmless. They’re usually small and in a ‘safe’ location. Simple pain relief, like ibuprofen, can help. So can BCPs. And there’s medication, or even an intrauterine device, that reduces heavy menstrual bleeding.
Surgery to remove really problematic fibroids might be necessary for women who want to get pregnant. There’s also a technique called uterine artery embolisation that stops the blood flow to fibroids, reducing their size. If you don’t want children and fibroids are intolerable, you could consider a hysterectomy. But this is drastic action, rarely needed.
10. Watch that weight.
It’s often not mentioned. But being overweight can increase your chances of getting fibroids. A high BMI also reduces your chances of getting pregnant. So maintaining a healthy weight is one thing you can do, cheaply and without visiting your doctor, to keep uterine fibroids in check.
Hope you enjoyed our 10 facts about uterine fibroids. Good luck!