Soon after you discover that you are pregnant, your doctor will send you for an ultrasound test or pelvic examination, in order to determine the health of your baby, as well as your uterus. Many women discover during these exams, that they have uterine fibroids.
These are masses that grow in or on the uterus, are normally quite harmless, and very seldom cause complications. There are times however, when these masses can cause problems, so it is always good to know the truths about uterine fibroids and pregnancy, and what to expect during your pregnancy.
Uterine Fibroids – What are they?
Basically, fibroids are a type of non-cancerous tumor consisting of tissue cells from your uterus. These masses can grow in and around your uterus, altering both the shape and size of the organ.
Fibroids range in sizes from a couple of centimeters in length to about 15 centimeters, and more. These masses very often grow in groups, so if one is found growing in your uterus it is very likely that you have more.
They are quite common, considering that between 50 and 80 percent of all women have at least one fibroid. Most of the time, women are not even aware that they have fibroids, but there are the other 20% of women that do have problems.
Uterine fibroids are normally discovered during yearly pelvic exams, and between 10 and 30 percent of pregnant women, also have them.
The different types of uterine fibroids
Following are the three different types of uterine fibroids, categorised according to where they develop in the uterus.
- Intramural fibroids are the most common type of fibroids, which develop inside the wall of the uterus
- Subserosal fibroids are those that develop on the outside of the uterus. They can increase in size and in some cases, grow on a stem and branch out in the direction of other organs
- Submucosal fibroids, account for just 5% of all uterine fibroids, and develop inside the uterus
Can any woman develop uterine fibroids?
According to the information supplied at www.pregnancy-info.net/fibroids.html, any woman, no matter what her age, can be affected by uterine fibroids.
As a matter of fact, if doctors looked carefully enough, they would find that just about any woman has at least one small fibroid.
There are however, certain woman that are more at risk of developing fibroids, such as those between the ages of 20 and 50, and those that are of African descent.
What are the causes of uterine fibroids?
Many women wonder why they develop fibroids in the first place, but the medical profession cannot agree as to why fibroids start growing. For some women it might be genetic reasons, and for others, the reasons might be hormonal.
It is also possible that the reproductive hormones, progesterone and estrogen, are able to stimulate cell growth, causing fibroids to develop. Increased hormone activity during pregnancy may also be the cause of fibroids increasing in size.
Most fibroids begin to shrink in size after pregnancy and during menopause, due to the lack of hormones in the body.
What are the symptoms of fibroids?
Fibroids do not cause any symptoms in the majority of women. In fact, most women are not even aware that they have fibroids, until they become pregnant. There are cases however, where large fibroids do cause a certain amount of discomfort.
These symptoms could include :
- Periods that last longer than normal
- Excessive bleeding
- Painful intercourse
- Distended stomach or constipation
- Backache or pain in the legs
- Pressure or pain in the pelvic area
Uterine Fibroids and Pregnancy
Even though fibroids do tend to increase in size during pregnancy, it is doubtful whether they will cause any significant symptoms, although there are some pregnant women who experience trivial symptoms, especially light spotting and pelvic pain.
These symptoms are more common in women that experience fibroid torsion, which is when a subserosal fibroid begins to twist on its stem.
However, even though most pregnant woman who have fibroids do not have any complications, risks of preterm labor and miscarriage are increased slightly.
On some occasions, if fibroids do become very large, certain complications can arise, such as postpartum hemorrhaging, delayed labor, fetal malpresentation, cesarean section, and labor obstruction.