These frustrating issues take on a whole new level when you discover you’re pregnant.
If you’ve been told you have fibroids, you may wonder how they may impact your pregnancy.
Will you experience a high risk pregnancy?
Will fibroids put you and your baby at risk for serious complications?
For some women, fibroids have little to no impact on their daily life, fertility or pregnancy.
But for others, fibroids can have a major impact.
Fibroids and Pregnancy
Here are 8 things you need to know about fibroids and pregnancy:
#1: Fibroids Are Common
Fibroids are non-cancerous masses of compacted muscle and fibrous tissue, found inside or outside the uterine wall.
A fibroid tumor may also be referred to as a leiomyoma or myoma.
With as many as 50-80% of women having fibroids, the condition is actually quite common.
#2: Fibroids Can Vary In Size
Some fibroids are as small as a pea, while others can be as large or larger than a grapefruit.
While most fibroids wont grow in size, around one third may grow in the first trimester of pregnancy. Fibroids which grow during pregnancy are the most problematic, as they can result in miscarriage.
Given the varying sizes and number of fibroids, symptoms can vary greatly from woman to woman. The location of the fibroid(s) can have an impact too.
#3: Fibroids Can Be Asymptomatic Or Be Problematic
Women with fibroids may have no noticeable symptoms, before, during or after pregnancy.
For other women, their fibroids come with such symptoms such as:
- Abdominal Pain
- Frequent urination, or urge to urinate
- Heavy vaginal bleeding
- Pelvic pressure and pain
It's important to contact your healthcare provider any time you have vaginal bleeding or pain, as they can also be symptoms of other concerns.
Reproductive and women's health specialist, Doctor Andrew Orr, recommends women have fibroids removed prior to pregnancy if possible, in order to reduce the chances of miscarriage. Fibroids can result in ectopic pregnancy, and if a fibroid grows, it can harm a foetus, even causing a miscarriage.
#4: You May Not Need Treatment – But You Do Need To Consult A Specialist
For most women, fibroids don’t require any treatment. For some women, fibroids are surgically removed, either prior to or after pregnancy. This is especially the case for women with large fibroids which cause pain, heavy bleeding or if the fibroids are impacting fertility (e.g. the fibroid is blocking fallopian tubes).
You aren’t able to have uterine surgery to remove fibroids during pregnancy, so if you’re experiencing pain due to the fibroids, your healthcare provider will likely recommend a treatment plan and pain medication which is safe during pregnancy.
Doctor Orr says that during pregnancy, it's more a case of treat, monitor and see. “It really depends where the fibroids are located — intrauterine [inside the uterus] fibroids are the biggest concern. Therefore, it's important for pregnant women with fibroids to consult a specialist to assess their unique situation, and not try to self treat.”
#5: Complications Are Possible, But Not A Guarantee
For women with smaller fibroids that don't grow, there’s little — if any — expected risk during pregnancy. Even for women with large fibroids, they can be low risk, but the size and location of the fibroids is the issue.
Depending on the size and location of the fibroids, there is an increased risk of miscarriage, in-uterine growth restriction, preterm birth, breech position, c-section, heavy postpartum bleeding or even hysterectomy.
#6: Fibroids Can Change During Pregnancy
Doctors aren’t certain why, but pregnancy hormones may cause your fibroids to grow or shrink. Your maternity care provider may monitor your fibroids to see if their changes increase your risk of complications.
If a fibroid is located near the bottom of the uterus, close to the cervix, growth could block the baby’s passage into the birth canal. If your midwife or doctor has any concerns, they will monitor you and make birth recommendations accordingly.
#7: Uterine Fibroids Don’t Automatically Mean A C-Section
While there is an increased risk of needing a c-section, many women with fibroids are able to have uncomplicated vaginal births. Unless the size and location of your fibroids is blocking the cervix, or the size and location impact baby’s ability to move into the optimal position, an uncomplicated vaginal birth is likely.
As fibroids change in size and as the uterus grows, even if a fibroid appeared to be a concern in early pregnancy, monitoring might show as the pregnancy continues, it becomes less of a concern.
If your healthcare provider recommends a c-section during early pregnancy, it’s a good idea to ask for monitoring towards the end of your pregnancy, so you can make an informed decision before scheduling it. Your situation may change and surgery may longer be needed.
#8: There Are No Miracle Cures
The internet is full of miracle cures for everything; however when it comes to fibroids, you should never self treat or consult doctor Google, because there are no miracle cures.
All you can do is leave the medical needs to your healthcare provider, and continue to be vigilant about your diet.
“Diet can be a factor with fibroids, because high insulin levels cause high estrogen levels, and that's what the fibroids grow from – a high estrogen environment. So adopt a low GI diet all the way, as soon as possible in your conception journey. There are other things you can do to help during pregnancy, but this would require a professional consultation,” says Doctor Orr.
Healthy eating is very important during conception and pregnancy – science has discovered what we eat impacts the health of our unborn children, and not just ourselves.
By eating a healthy diet, eliminating sugar and processed grains (bread, cereals, pasta, processed foods), you can not only help to prevent and minimise problems associated with fibroids, but other pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes. Not sure where to start? Here are 13 healthy breakfast ideas.
Pregnancy is a time of excitement, but also a time where common concerns can become worrisome. Fortunately, for most women, fibroid tumors are unlikely to cause complications during their pregnancy and birth.