Unfortunately, there are many complications that can disrupt a hopeful couple's chances of starting a family. Both men and women must play an active role in protecting their personal and reproductive health, but women, especially, face a variety of challenges that pose many threats when left untreated.
Along with other major fertility issues--such as PCOS or endometriosis--uterine fibroids can have a major effect on a woman's fertility. Studies show that roughly 80% of women will develop fibroids by the age of 50, but many may not show any signs of malady or even be aware of its presence.
Although women can lead perfectly normal lives with them existing, fibroids can still represent an underlying cause of infertility for couples trying to conceive.
If you and your partner suspect that fibroids may be hindering your progress, here are few things to consider about the issue and how you can better arm yourself with solutions to fertility problems that you face:
What Are Fibroids?
Fibroids represent noncancerous muscle growths that develop within or outside of a woman's uterus. These growths can vary in size from tiny polyps to large tumors, and depending on how they impact the reproductive organs, they can cause a range of hormonal and physical problems for the host.
On the bright side, these abnormalities rarely ever develop into malignancy, but here are a few symptoms that can signify their influence:
Possible Symptoms of Fibroids
As mentioned before, some women may not experience any symptoms from fibroids. In many cases, abnormal growths are insignificant to the functionality of the uterus, but in the event that many tumors persist or take on a notable size, the following symptoms can occur:
- Extended menstrual periods longer than a week
- Heavy blood flow during menstrual cycles
- Lower abdominal or pelvic pain
- Difficulty urinating or constant urination
- Back pain or leg pain
- Severe menstrual cramping
- Pain during sex
Another factor to consider when determining the symptoms that arise from fibroids is the placement where they develop. Fibroids can be categorized into four different types:
Generally the most common type to form, developing within the muscular wall of the uterus. Fibroids of this kind can grow large in size and stretch the uterus.
Fibroids of this nature develop outside of the uterus (serosa). Their growth can also create a lop-sided effect on the appearance of the womb.
Subserosal fibroids that generate a stem or base for the tumor to grow are classified as pedunculated.
Lastly, fibroids of this kind develop within the myometrium of the uterus. They are less common than the other kinds.
Now that you have an understanding of what issues can surface and where fibroids can emerge, connecting their presence to challenges with fertility becomes much easier interpret.
How Do Fibroids Affect Fertility?
Oddly enough, the initial cause of fibroids is somewhat unknown. Research suggests that fibroids can develop from hereditary factors, high levels of estrogen and progesterone that help stimulate the uterine lining, or lifestyle habits surrounding diet, exercise, and prescribed medications, but pinpointing a definite reason has proven to be difficult task. Nonetheless, there is a significant correlation between the development of fibroids and fertility issues, so women who have been properly diagnosed with fibroids should be aware of what problems they may face when trying to conceive.
Essentially, the location of the fibroids, along with their size, are the biggest threats that women need to consider. For instance, a large tumor that develops within the uterine cavity (submucosal) can prevent an embryo from attaching, obstruct the process of conception, or result in a miscarriage once a pregnancy occurs.
When evaluating fibroids that grow within the uterine muscle (intramural), abnormalities can also create a blockade against conception, while forming other obstructions that affect the pathways of the fallopian tubes, halting the transfer of an embryo to the uterine cavity. In addition, fibroids may cause a fetus to grow disproportionately, force a placental abruption that results in a loss of pregnancy, or incite a pre-term labor or birth that can lead to other major complications.
Fibroids can certainly be a serious danger to those trying to start a family, but thankfully, there are several ways to alleviate their onset or remove them entirely once they become too threatening.
How Fibroids Can Be Treated
After consulting with a fertility specialist, couples can take advantage of several treatment options to combat your fibroids and continue with better attempts at having a successful pregnancy.
It is also important to note that you can make some lifestyle changes that may help with your overall reproductive health. A change in diet presents the most rewarding results for those afflicted. Choosing to eat a vegetarian diet high in flavonoids, as well as consuming controlled amounts of fish, such as salmon or tuna, can help maintain a healthy weight and reduce stress and inflammation that contributes to hormonal inconsistencies. Living an active lifestyle is also important to maintain a healthy weight and regulate the hormones that affect your reproductive health.
Medications and Surgeries
Aside from lifestyle and diet changes, various medications can shrink the size of fibroids and regulate estrogen and progesterone levels throughout the body. Fertility medications can also be helpful in conjunction with surgical options.
If tumors have grown too large or are too populous, women can also benefit from surgical procedures to remove their fibroids, choosing either a myomectomy or laparoscopy.
Depending on the location (inside the uterine lining or not) and size of your fibroids, these surgical options can range from minimally-invasive to more invasive options such as a laparotomy myomectomy, which is considered to be more experimental. Due to advances in reproductive surgeries and technology, a minimally-invasive surgery could be the best option to treat your condition with the least amount of down-time (typically within a week) and scarring.
It is important to note that there are additional surgeries out there such as a uterine artery embolization that may seem attractive for those seeking another “minimally-invasive” option, but if your ultimate goal is to optimize your reproductive health to increase your fertility chances, this may not be the option for you. A uterine artery embolization works by cutting off the blood supply to the fibroid(s) in hopes of it shrinking in size. The downside to this procedure is the possibility of blood supply being cut off to the ovaries as well. This is why it is important to speak to your fertility specialist about your long-term fertility goals.
Once again, the type of treatment will depend on the condition and placement of the fibroids, but hopeful couples can find relief in knowing that they have options. More importantly, they can rest assured that a team of fertility experts will always be there to support them throughout the process.
Kofinas Fertility Group Will Be Your Guide
You can take action today by preparing yourself against the problems that uterine fibroids can create, and by doing so, you'll be able to maximize your chances for a healthy pregnancy in the future. Kofinas Fertility Group is dedicated to providing you with cutting-edge treatment options, as well as being your resource for professional advice and medical care.
Fibroids shouldn't be the reason why you can't have the family of your dreams.
We can assist you and your partner with any issues that you may be experiencing, so please feel free to contact us and schedule an appointment with our team.