July is National Uterine Fibroid Awareness Month and there’s one big reason to help spread awareness this month. Approximately 80% of women will have developed fibroids in their lifetime by the age of 50. While 80% will be affected by uterine fibroids, it’s almost never talked about and we need to get the conversation going.
Uterine fibroids are benign, or non-cancerous growths within the uterine wall and are most common during women’s reproductive years. Aside from causing a variety of symptoms, it can also negatively impact your fertility and this is something we come across with a handful of our patients here at OC Fertility.
While many women are aware there is something wrong as they experience symptoms associated with uterine fibroids, there are also women who have no symptoms at all. Let’s dive a little deeper into possible symptoms to keep an eye out for.
Symptoms of Fibroids
For most women, they will experience one or more symptoms in relation to their uterine fibroids. These potential symptoms can include heavy bleeding, pelvic pain, bloating and constipation, frequent urination, pain in the legs and low back, and even pain during intercourse.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, it’s important to follow up with your doctor to help determine the cause and rule out if you could potentially have uterine fibroids growing.
Not only can fibroids cause painful and undesirable symptoms, but they can also cause reproductive issues that lead to infertility. Depending on the location of the fibroids, they can prevent embryos from implanting or even block fallopian tubes, which can prevent pregnancy.
Treating Uterine Fibroids
Getting diagnosed with uterine fibroids usually involves a simple procedure like an ultrasound or MRI. You may have heard of the term hysteroscopy and this is a common diagnostic test used by reproductive endocrinologists that help them get a better look inside the uterine cavity and opening to the fallopian tubes. This procedure is generally painless and takes only a few minutes during an office visit. Afterward, you may experience some mild cramping or spotting, but otherwise, you can get back to life as normal.
If fibroids are spotted, your doctor can help you determine what the best next steps are for you. In many cases, the uterine fibroids may be small enough that your doctor will recommend monitoring the growth, but it may also be recommended to remove them, especially for women who are already having issues trying to conceive.
In the case that your doctor recommends removing any existing fibroids, they would perform a procedure called a myomectomy. In many cases, this can be done as a hysteroscopic myomectomy, which allows your doctor to insert instruments through the vagina and cervix directly into your uterus to remove the fibroids. This is an outpatient procedure that has minimal recovery and downtime.
Removing uterine fibroids is often the best treatment option for women who are trying to conceive or considering having kids in the future as it preserves the uterus while removing any fibroids that can lead to reproductive issues.
It is possible for fibroids to re-grow after having them removed, so your doctor may opt to have you do follow-up diagnostic testing in the future to check for regrowth. Women who have had fibroids removed at a younger age, it’s more likely to see regrowth, especially those women who have had multiple fibroids removed.
In severe cases, your doctor may recommend a complete hysterectomy to fully prevent regrowth. This is usually an option considered for postmenopausal women and is the last resort treatment for those who are no longer desiring to have children with more severe symptoms.
Uterine Fibroid Awareness
July 1st is National Wear White day to show support for all women who have experienced uterine fibroids. In addition to showing your support by wearing white, you can also head over to the FDA Website or ASRM to educate yourself further on the facts about fibroids and their impact on fertility.
The more we know the better and allows each of us to have a better understanding of what to look for in our own bodies, while also helping others by encouraging them to visit a doctor when their experiencing symptoms associated with uterine fibroids.