What are fibroids?
Fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) growths made up of muscle tissue. They range from pea-size to 5 to 6 inches across. If you have them, you’re in good company. About 20 to 40 percent of women develop fibroids during their reproductive years, most frequently in their 30s and 40s.
Many women with fibroids have no symptoms, while others have symptoms such as:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Anemia (resulting from heavy menstrual bleeding)
- Abdominal or back pain
- Pain during sex
- Difficulty urinating or frequent urination
Your health care provider may first detect fibroids during a routine pelvic exam. The diagnosis can be confirmed with one or more imaging tests.
Small fibroids usually don’t cause problems during pregnancy and usually require no treatment. However, fibroids occasionally break down during pregnancy, resulting in abdominal pain and low-grade fever. Treatment includes bedrest and pain medication. Multiple or large fibroids may need to be surgically removed, generally before pregnancy, to avoid potential complications associated with pregnancy. Due to pregnancy hormones, fibroids sometimes grow larger during pregnancy. Rarely, large fibroids may block the uterine opening, making a cesarean birth necessary.
Most women with fibroids have healthy pregnancies. However, fibroids can increase the risk of certain pregnancy complications, including:
- Preterm labor
- Abnormal presentation (such as breech position)
- Cesarean birth (usually due to breech position)
- Placental abruption (separation of the placenta from the wall of the uterus before birth)
- Heavy bleeding after birth
If a health care provider determines that a woman’s infertility or repeated pregnancy losses are probably caused by fibroids, he may recommend surgery to remove the fibroids. This surgery is called a myomectomy. In some cases, myomectomy can be done during hysteroscopy.