The Connection between Fibroids and Infertility
Fibroids, which are also known as uterine leiomyomata, are non-cancerous tumors which are made up of uterine cell tissues. These fibroids grow both inside and around your uterus.
The size of these tumors can vary from only a few centimeters long to about 15 centimeters in length.
Fibroids often grow together in groups. Studies indicate that around 20 percent of women who are of childbearing age will have uterine fibroids, although they are not commonly found in women who are under the age of 30.
Fibroids can often change the shape and size of your uterus, and this is where the direct connection between fibroids and infertility begins.
In about 70 percent of the cases where women are experiencing infertility due to fibroids, surgery to remove the fibroids has resulted in increased fertility.
Perhaps the most important thing to note when it comes to fibroids and infertility is that having them does not mean that you and your partner won’t be able to conceive naturally.
Types of Fibroids that Affect Infertility
There are several different categories of fibroids:
- Intramural fibroids: These fibroids grow inside the wall of the uterus and are the most common. These fibroids will often affect your chances of getting pregnant.
- Subserosal fibroids: These fibroids grow outside of the uterus and are usually the biggest of the fibroid types.
- Submucosal fibroids: These fibroids are on the inside of your uterus and are very rare.
Fibroids can interfere with your ability to get pregnant in several ways. Fibroids that grow on the inside wall of your uterus can create deviations in the endometrial tissue.
This can make it difficult if not impossible for the fertilized egg to attach itself to the wall of your uterus.
Those fibroids that grow outside of your uterus can both block and compress your fallopian tubes which will prevent sperm from being able to reach the egg.
The cause of fibroids is not known for certain. Estrogen plays a role in fibroid growth as this hormone seems to stimulate and encourage fibroid growth.
All fibroids start as one cell that grows as it tries to replicate itself. There are some indications that fibroids are genetic, so if someone else in your family has had fibroids you may be at increased risk.
Symptoms of Fibroids Affecting Fertility
Other than experiencing infertility issues, you may not even know that you have fibroids. Also keep in mind that the type and severity of your symptoms will be dependent on the location of the fibroid, the type of fibroid, and the size.
You may be having abnormal menstrual periods as well as painful cramps. You may also find that you’re having difficulty urinating or moving your bowels.
This is caused by the fibroids putting pressure on your bladder or rectum. Still, other symptoms include hemorrhoids, lower back pain, and pelvic pain.
Even with all these symptoms, you won’t know if you have fibroids until you undergo further testing.
Diagnosing Fibroids Affecting Fertility
Your doctor will often be able to determine whether or not you have fibroids during a physical examination, however, you’ll have to undergo further testing to correctly diagnose what type of fibroid you have and where it’s located.
The following tests are commonly used to diagnose fibroids:
- Ultrasound: A scan using sound waves that will detect fibroids around and in your cervix and uterus.
- Laparoscopy: A procedure in which a thin fiberoptic telescope is pushed through a small incision close to your navel to detect and often remove fibroids.
- Hysterosalpingogram: A procedure which uses colored dye and x-rays to detect fibroids located on the inside of your uterus. Also used to determine if your fallopian tubes are blocked or compressed.
- Hysteroscopy: A procedure in which a thin fiberoptic telescope is carefully inserted into your uterine cavity to detect and often remove fibroids.
If you’re experiencing both fibroid and infertility problems there’s a good chance that they are connected.
Once your doctor knows that you’ve been trying to conceive without success, he or she will quickly make the connection and have you undergo the above tests.
Treating Fibroids for Infertility Problems
You and your doctor will want to treat any fibroids as soon as possible so that you can increase your chances of pregnancy. There are two main methods for treating fibroids: surgically and with medication.
A surgeon can remove the fibroids during laparoscopy, a hysteroscopy, or by a myomectomy (an open incision).
Medication will be used prior to any surgery to shrink the fibroids as much as possible and stop them from getting any bigger. You’ll only be able to use these types of medications for a few months before there is a risk of bone loss.
Your doctor will talk to you about what treatment is best for your condition. Since fibroids and infertility are your main issue, your doctor will choose options that focus not only on removing the fibroids but that offer you the best chances of going on to conceive.