Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths of uterus tissue often appearing during childbearing years. Fibroids develop from repeated cellular division of myometrium which is smooth muscular tissue of uterus, ending up as a firm, rubbery mass. The growth pattern of fibroids is unpredictable i.e. they may not grow at all, or grow slowly or grow rapidly. Some fibroids may actually shrink on their own while the others can go through growth spurts. Their size can range from very small to very bulky to the extent of causing uterine enlargement.
As a matter of fact almost 80% of women have uterine fibroid at some point in their live, but may be unaware because of absence of symptoms.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Fibroids?
- Prolonged menstrual periods with bleeding lasting for seven or more days.
- Heavy menstrual blood flow.
- Bleeding in between periods.
- Pain associated with intercourse.
- Pelvic pain and/or pressure like sensation.
- Increased frequency of urination.
- Difficulty in emptying the bladder.
- Pain and aches in back and legs.
Fibroids can only very rarely cause acute pain if they outgrow their blood supply and begin to die. The waste products then seep into surrounding areas causing inflammation and thus pain.
Also location and size of fibroids can actually affect the exhibited symptoms.
What Are the Causes of Fibroids?
Though exact causes as to what causes fibroids remain unclear but research does point towards certain factors which are as follows:
- Influence of Hormones: Estrogen and progesterone are the hormones responsible for development of uterine lining during the course of each menstrual cycle so as to prepare the body for pregnancy and these same hormones seem to cause growth of fibroids.
- Family History: Fibroids seem to have a genetic predisposition and believed to run in families.
- Growth Factors: There are certain other growth factors which body needs for normal development of tissues and the same appear to influence growth of fibroids.
- Lifestyle: A diet with more of red meat and lesser green vegetables as well as drinking alcohol seemingly increases the risk of developing fibroids.
How Can Fibroids Affect Fertility?
Though uterine fibroids do not pose serious health issues as such but can lead to complications such as anemia due to heavy blood loss. Depending upon their location and size, it is possible for fibroids to interfere with childbearing capacity of a woman and thus leading to infertility. The fibroids which are located inside the uterus can end up distorting or obstructing the uterine cavity.
What Is the Treatment Plan for Fibroids?
Hormonal medications cannot really eliminate fibroids but might be able to shrink them. Also medications help relieve pelvic pressure and symptoms of excessive menstrual bleeding. Some of the commonly used medications are as follows:
- Progestin releasing intrauterine device – This kind of IUD is only helpful in relieving pressure and pain symptoms and not on shrinking the fibroids.
- Gonadotropin releasing hormone agonists –These medications block the production of estrogen and progesterone and create a temporary menopause kind of state. These medications might be prescribed to shrink the size of fibroids before scheduling surgery.
- Oral contraceptives and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – These might be prescribed for symptomatic relief without actually reducing the size of fibroids.
- Minimally invasive surgical options – These can be recommended by the doctor including these:
- Laparoscopic Myomectomy – During this procedure, fibroids are removed, leaving uterus intact.
- Myolysis – Electric current or laser is used to destroy the fibroids and to shrink blood vessels so as to cut the supply feeding the fibroids.
- Hysteroscopic Myomectomy – If fibroids are located inside the uterus, instruments are inserted through vaginal route and fibroids are removed.
- Endometrial ablation of submucosal fibroids – While using specialized instrumentation which is inserted in uterus, menstrual flow is ceased or reduced using electric current or microwave energy.
Is Difficulty in Conception Linked to Fibroids?
The presence of fibroids causing difficulty in conception is usually dependent on the type of fibroids a woman has. Submucosal fibroids or fibroids located in the uterus are most like to affect fertility as they can distort normal morphology of uterus and interfere with implantation of an embryo. If there are problems conceiving, it is advisable to see a specialist so as to find out if there is any fertility related problem and thus treat that. If no cause is found, usually the couples who are under 34 years of age are recommended to continue trying to conceive naturally up to two years before seeking fertility treatments. In certain cases though, treatment is suggested sooner than later as fertility tends to decline with age. The process of Myomectomy is a popular process for the removal of the fibroid. When we see it from the perspective of an IVF expert then we find that Myomectomy supports IVF process in two ways, first it helps the process of conceiving the kid and cuts down the chances of a probable miscarriage after IVF. In other words, we can say that it acts as a cushion for IVF process.