Understanding the Connection between Fibroids and Infertility
Fibroids (or uterine leiomyomata) occur when normal muscle cells in the uterus begin to grow abnormally, creating lumps or tumors that are usually benign (non-cancerous). Fibroids are very common; in fact, about 20% of women will develop fibroids during their child-bearing years. African American women are at higher risk for fibroids, with a 50-80% incidence.
What Symptoms Occur with Fibroids?
Many women never even know that they have fibroids because the growths may be small and/or do not cause any symptoms.
In other cases, Dr. Mark Rispler and Dr. Joshua J. Berger may find fibroids during an initial fertility workup, or you may suspect a problem. Women who do have symptoms may experience:
- Problems with menstruation, including heavy bleeding or prolonged periods in excess of 7 days
- Bleeding between periods
- Pelvic pain or lower belly pain
- Bloating or fullness in the pelvis or belly area
- Frequent urination
- Pain during intercourse
Problems with reproduction, including infertility, can also be caused by fibroids. Fortunately, this cause of infertility can be treated with a surgical procedure called a myomectomy (a minimally invasive surgical removal of the fibroids).
What Is the Relationship between Fibroids and Infertility?
For most women, fibroids will not cause a problem with conception. Studies have shown that only about 1 to 3% of patients will have fibroids that affect their fertility.* Fibroids that are located inside the uterine cavity and large fibroids (larger than 6 cm in diameter) that are located within the uterine wall seem to cause infertility the most.
When fibroids change the shape of the uterus or uterine muscle, it may:
- Interfere with the movement of sperm
- Interfere with embryo implantation
In addition, fibroids may block the fallopian tubes or cause other changes that prevent conception.
How Will I Know If My Fibroids are Causing Fertility Problems?
We diagnose fibroids by taking a thorough medical history and performing a physical exam, if necessary. There are several tests which will confirm the diagnosis, including:
- Hysterosalpingogram (HSG)
- CT Scan or MRI
Your doctor will evaluate these tests to determine if your fibroids are indeed affecting your fertility.
How Will My Fibroids Be Treated?
Patients with fibroids that are not causing problems may simply be monitored. However, if your doctor thinks that your fibroids and infertility are connected he will most likely recommend surgical removal of large fibroids.
There are several other fibroid treatment options for those women not looking for future fertility. These include:
- Treatment with medications
- Focused ultrasound ablation
- Uterine artery embolization (UAE)
While the above are effective treatments, they are NOT recommended for women seeking pregnancy.
Your doctor will base his fertility treatment plan on your individual needs. Contact the Manhattan Beach fertility clinic that specializes in advanced treatment options and minimally invasive approaches.