Getting Pregnant and Common Fertility Problems: Uterine Fibroids
One fertility problem that can affect your chances of getting pregnant is uterine fibroids. Uterine fibroids, also known as uterine fibroid cyst, can affect female fertility in a number of ways. But what exactly are uterine fibroids and what symptoms do they cause; how are they diagnosed and what treatment options are available?
What Are Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) growths that develop in the uterus, generally during a womanï¿½s childbearing years. They are not linked to an increased risk of cancer and generally do not develop into cancerous growths.
Also referred to as fibromyomas, myomas or leiomyomas, up to 3 out of 4 women have uterine fibroids. They develop from normal muscular uterine tissue (myometrium) that is smooth in texture and are characterized by pale, firm and rubbery growth. They occur when a single cell continually reproduces, developing in an abnormal mass.
Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids
Generally, women do not experience symptoms. However if symptoms do occur, the most common signs of uterine fibroids are the following:
- heavy menstrual bleeding
- overly long menstrual periods
- bleeding or spotting between periods
- pelvic pain or pressure
- urinary incontinence or frequent urination
- leg pain
In some instances, the degeneration of fibroids leads to acute pain. This is the result of the leaking of the decaying fibroid into nearby tissue.
The location of the uterine fibroids can also affect your symptoms. There are two types of fibroids according to location:
- submucosal fibroids these fibroids are located in the inner uterine cavity and are associated with menstrual symptoms, like prolonged periods and heavy bleeding
- subserosal fibroids project outside of the uterus and can press on the bladder causing urinary problems or can press into the back, leading to backaches or constipation
While researchers have not linked uterine fibroids to one single cause, there are a number of possible causes of uterine fibroids, including the following:
- genetic alterations can cause the development of uterine fibroids due to irregular codes of the muscle cells
- hormones estrogen and progesterone can promote the growth of fibroids
- chemicals involved in tissue development and maintenance such as growth factor insulin can lead to uterine fibroids
In addition, heredity can increase a womanï¿½s chances of developing fibroids, meaning that if a womanï¿½s mother or sister has or has had fibroids, sheï¿½s at a greater risk of developing them herself; also, black women and in particular young black women are also more likely to have uterine fibroids.
Fibroids are generally diagnosed using a pelvic exam or an ultrasound, including a prenatal ultrasound. An ultrasound is an important tool in the diagnosis of uterine fibroids because it can measure fibroids.
Other imaging tests may also be performed in order to detect for the presence of fibroids, including a hysteroscopy.
Treatment of Uterine Fibroids
Only a small percentage of cases of uterine fibroids requires treatment. Treatment is usually taken in cases of persistent symptoms, including pelvic pain, heavy periods, pain during intercourse, spotting or bleeding between periods and urinary problems.
However, when treatment is required, there are a variety of options available to women.
Medications can help to minimize the size of uterine fibroids, but cannot remove them altogether. Examples of some effective medications in the treatment of uterine fibroids include androgens and gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) agonists.
There are also surgical treatment options available. A myomectomy can remove fibroids, however there is a risk of recurrence associated with this type of surgery.
On the other hand, a hysterectomy is a surgical procedure in which the entire uterus is removed. It is the only procedure that permanently eliminates the risk of uterine fibroids; however, it is a major surgical procedure and women who have performed and ends your ability to get pregnant.
Currently, there is no known information regarding the prevention of fibroids.
Uterine Fibroids and Fertility
Uterine fibroids can sometimes affect fertility. Ways in which fibroids can decrease your chances of getting pregnant are the following:
- blocking or distorting the fallopian tubes
- hindering the passage of sperm from the cervix to the fallopian tubes
Generally, uterine fibroids do not lead to complications during pregnancy. This is because they usually remain the same size during a pregnancy and in some cases, decrease slightly in size, particularly during the first trimester.
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