Effects of fibroids on pregnancy
Around 50 to 80 per cent of women develop fibroids by the age of 50. This startling statistic affects women across the globe; however, women of African descent are two to three times more likely to develop the benign tumours.
Fibroids, also known as leiomyoma or myoma, is a mass of compacted muscle and fibrous tissue that grows on the wall (or sometimes on the outside) of the uterus. It can be as small as a pea or as large as a grapefruit.
Not sure if you have fibroids? The symptoms of a fibroid tumour are:
- Heavy vaginal bleeding
- Abdominal pain
- Pelvic pressure
- Frequent urination
Most women do not experience any effects from fibroids during their pregnancy. However, in 2010 a study was conducted and documented in Contemporary Management of Fibroids in Pregnancy by Hee Joong Lee, MD, PhD, which concluded that 10 to 30 per cent of women with fibroids develop complications during pregnancy. The research noted that the most prevalent complication of fibroids during pregnancy is pain. This is common in women with fibroids that are larger than 5 centimetres.
Having fibroids may increase the risk of developing the following complications during pregnancy and/or delivery.
- Placental abruption. This happens when the placenta breaks away from the uterine wall because it is blocked by a fibroid. This reduces oxygen and vital nutrients.
- Foetal growth restriction. Fibroids averaging 5 centimetres or more may prevent a foetus from developing fully due to a decrease in space within the womb.
- Preterm delivery. Pain from fibroids may cause uterine contractions which will possibly cause early delivery.
- According to WomenHealth.gov, women with fibroids are six times more likely to have a cesarean delivery (C-section).
- Breech position. Because of the abnormal shape of the womb the baby might not be aligned correctly for vaginal delivery.
- Miscarriage. A miscarriage is twice as likely to occur in women with fibroids.
- Fibroids can increase in size during pregnancy under the influence of elevated circulation of hormones estrogen and progesterone. Treatment for fibroids during pregnancy is risky. Most doctors recommend bed rest, ice packs and medication approved by a physician if necessary.
To slow down the development of fibroids before pregnancy, persons can choose the following procedures:
- Myomectomy, which is a surgical removal of the fibroids
- Hormonal birth control pills
- Intrauterine device
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist. This blocks the release of hormones that may lead to menstruation and ovulation.
Myolysis, which is a procedure using electrical current, laser or radio frequency energy beam to shrink the fibroids.
A complete lifestyle change is an easier and non-invasive option which is proven to decrease the size of the fibroids. By reducing the amount of red meat, food high in saturated fat, high fat dairy products, caffeine laden beverages, high salted foods and bleached grains such as white rice and white flour, and increasing your activity level will increase the possibility of slowing down the growth of the fibroids.
How many people are affected by or at risk of uterine fibroids? (2016).
If I have uterine fibroids, can I still get pregnant? (2016).
Laughlin SK, et al. (2010). Pregnancy-related fibroid reduction. DOI:
Lee HJ, et al. (2010). Contemporary management of fibroids in pregnancy.