Fibroid tumors are benign tumors that grow in uterine tissue. They are benign, quite common, and many women live with fibroids without even knowing it. However, sometimes these growths occur in places, and some are much larger than others (some tumors are as small as a bean, while others can grow as big as a cantaloupe).
Thus, fibroids can compromise a woman’s ability to conceive, prevent a fertilized egg from implanting and the fetus’s ability to develop.
Risk Factors for Developing Fibroid Tumors
It’s always a good idea to schedule a pre-conception appointment with your OB/GYN when you’re ready to get pregnant. And, if any of the following risk factors ring true for you, mention them to your physician. She’ll pay extra attention and may even schedule an ultrasound to see if you have any fibroid tumors you’re unaware of, or that could negatively impact fertility or pregnancy.
- You’re 35-years old or older. Advanced age is a factor. Roughly half of all women have had a fibroid tumor at one time or another by the time they turn 35; by the time a woman turns 50, there’s an 80% chance she has or has had fibroids.
- Family history of fibroids (mother, sister, grandmother)
- African-American ethnicity
- High-blood pressure
- No history of pregnancy
- Consumption of soy milk and other processed soy products
- Vitamin D deficiency
How Do Fibroids Affect Pregnancy?
The tumors are harder to detect once you’re pregnant since the uterine muscles are thicker at that point. But their impact increases as the pregnancy progresses. We mentioned above that they can make it harder to conceive, but once you’re pregnant, fibroid tumors can pose varying problems at different stages of the pregnancy.
The first trimester
During the first trimester, fibroids can cause:
- Pain or pelvic discomfort
- Miscarriage. While miscarriage rates amongst the general population are around 7.4%, those rates jump to 14% for women with a single fibroid tumor. Multiple fibroids increase those rates.
The second and third trimesters
While the rest of the pregnant population is experiencing relief from morning sickness and that notorious pregnancy glow, women with fibroids can have a tougher time. The growing baby is challenged by space constraints and a tumor that may potentially limit its nourishment from the placenta.
- Pain. Larger tumors become more painful at this point. Sometimes they twist, which causes intense pain. In some cases, they twist or grow so much they cut off/outgrow their own blood supply and “drop off.” This can have a negative impact on the baby, and sometimes causes a miscarriage.
- Placenta abruptia. This very serious condition occurs when the placenta pulls away from the uterine wall. When this happens, the baby doesn’t have enough access to oxygen, and you can go into shock.
- Breech positioning. Since tumors alter the interior space and uterus shape, babies may turn breech in order to “fit.”
- Preterm delivery. As you can imagine, a larger fibroid (or multiple fibroids) take up more space in the uterus, and this can lead to preterm delivery. Women with fibroid tumors are more likely to give birth to babies before 37-weeks than women who don’t have them.
Labor and delivery
You are more likely to require a C-section if you fibroids because the tumors can block your uterus’s ability to contract, or may even block the birth canal. The good news is that after your baby is born, odds are your fibroid tumors will shrink by as much as 50% or more.
Treatment for fibroid tumors
Establishing you have fibroid tumors before you get pregnant helps us treat them before they can compromise your pregnancy or your baby’s well being. If your fibroids are painful, causing complications, or we feel they’ll negatively impact fertility or pregnancy, we’ll suggest treatment. The most common methods for treating fibroids is via hormonal medications that shrink them or surgical removal – called a myomectomy.
Do you suspect you have fibroid tumors? Or, are you ready to schedule your pre-conception appointment to increase your chances of fertility success? Contact us here at Women’s Health Associates and schedule a consultation.