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January 6, 2024


Fibroids, also known as uterine fibroids or leiomyomas, are noncancerous growths of the uterus that often appear during a woman’s childbearing years. These muscular tumors can vary in size, ranging from small seedlings to large masses that can distort the shape of the uterus. While fibroids are common and usually harmless, they can have a significant impact on fertility. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of fibroids, exploring their causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and most importantly, their implications for fertility.

What Are Fibroids?

Fibroids are composed of muscle and fibrous tissue and can develop anywhere in the uterus. They are categorized based on their location:

Subserosal Fibroids: These grow on the outer wall of the uterus and can press on surrounding organs, causing pain and discomfort.

Intramural Fibroids: These are the most common type and grow within the muscular wall of the uterus, potentially causing enlargement.

Submucosal Fibroids: These develop just beneath the lining of the uterus and can protrude into the uterine cavity, leading to heavy menstrual bleeding and other complications.

Pedunculated Fibroids: These are attached to the uterus by a stalk, either inside or outside the uterine cavity.

Causes and Risk Factors

Understanding the causes and risk factors associated with fibroids is crucial for developing effective prevention and treatment strategies. While the exact cause remains unknown, several factors may contribute to their development:

Hormonal Influence: Hormonal fluctuations, particularly in estrogen and progesterone levels, play a pivotal role in the development of fibroids. These hormones, which are essential to the menstrual cycle, can promote fibroids’ development. Elevated estrogen levels, which are common during pregnancy or while taking hormonal contraception, may have a role in their creation. The intricate interplay between these hormones creates an environment conducive to the initiation and progression of fibroids within the uterus, underscoring the significant hormonal influence on their development.

Genetic Predisposition: A compelling factor contributing to fibroid development is genetic predisposition. Individuals with a family history of fibroids are more susceptible to their formation. While the particular genetic pathways are unknown, inherited genetic mutations or changes may increase the probability of fibroid development. The complicated intergenerational transfer of genetic variables appears to produce a propensity, stressing the relevance of a person’s familial health history in determining their sensitivity to fibroids.

Ethnicity: Studies have indicated a noteworthy correlation between ethnicity and the prevalence of fibroids, with women of African descent experiencing a higher incidence and often more severe symptoms. While the particular molecular factors underlying this discrepancy are unknown, it highlights the diverse character of fibroid growth. Genetic and environmental variables specific to various ethnic groups may contribute to greater vulnerability, highlighting the need of taking ethnic origin into account when understanding the complicated etiology of fibroids.

Age and Hormonal Changes: The age-related aspect of fibroid development is noteworthy, with these growths predominantly emerging during a woman’s reproductive years. During this time, the impact of hormonal shifts, notably swings in estrogen and progesterone levels, is amplified. Furthermore, when women approach menopause, a decrease in these hormones frequently results in a reduction in fibroid size. The intricate interplay between age-related hormonal shifts and fibroid growth highlights the dynamic nature of their development, underlining the importance of age as a significant factor in understanding and managing fibroids.

Signs and Symptoms

Identifying the signs and symptoms of fibroids is essential for early detection and intervention. While many women with fibroids may remain asymptomatic, others may experience:

Menstrual Changes: Menstrual changes associated with fibroids can manifest as heavy menstrual bleeding, prolonged periods, and irregular menstrual cycles. Women with fibroids may experience an increase in the duration and intensity of their menstrual flow, often leading to the need for more frequent changes of sanitary products. These alterations in the menstrual pattern can be disruptive and may prompt individuals to seek medical attention for proper evaluation and management.

Pelvic Pain and Pressure: Fibroids can induce pelvic pain and pressure, creating discomfort that varies in intensity. This discomfort may be caused by the fibroids’ size and position, since they can press against nearby organs and tissues. Women with fibroids may have feelings of fullness or pressure in the lower abdomen, and pelvic discomfort may be worsened during intercourse. Understanding and addressing this pelvic discomfort are essential components of managing fibroid-related symptoms and improving overall quality of life.

Frequent Urination: The presence of fibroids, particularly larger ones, can lead to frequent urination. This happens when fibroids strain on the bladder, creating an increased desire to pee more frequently than normal. Women who have this symptom may find it uncomfortable and disturbing to their everyday lives. Identifying the link between fibroids and frequent urination is critical for correct diagnosis as well as the development of effective treatment techniques to reduce this specific component of fibroid-related pain.

Backache or Leg Pains: Backache and leg pains can be secondary symptoms of fibroids, stemming from the pressure exerted by the tumors on nerves in the pelvic region. This soreness may travel from the lower back down to the legs, adding to the physical strain. Backache and leg pains caused by fibroids are frequently described as dull, persistent aches, and treating these symptoms may necessitate a multifaceted strategy that takes into account both the fibroids and their influence on the surrounding anatomical systems.

Reproductive Issues: Fibroids can contribute to a range of reproductive issues, affecting fertility and pregnancy outcomes. Women with fibroids may face challenges in conceiving, potentially experiencing difficulty in achieving and maintaining a pregnancy. Furthermore, fibroids are linked to an increased risk of recurrent pregnancy loss, premature delivery, and labor difficulties. Understanding the complex link between fibroids and reproductive health is critical for those who want to establish a family because it informs preventative actions and allows for educated decision-making in cooperation with healthcare experts.

Diagnosing Fibroids

Accurate diagnosis is essential for determining the most appropriate treatment approach. Various diagnostic methods are available, including:

  • Pelvic Exam: A thorough pelvic examination allows healthcare providers to feel for abnormalities in the shape or size of the uterus.
  • Imaging Tests: Ultrasound, MRI, and hysterosonography provide detailed images of the uterus, helping to identify the size, location, and number of fibroids.
  • Hysteroscopy: This procedure involves inserting a thin, lighted tube through the cervix to examine the inside of the uterus.
  • Biopsy: While rare, a biopsy may be performed to rule out cancer if the fibroids display suspicious characteristics.

Fibroids and Fertility

One of the most pressing concerns for individuals dealing with fibroids is their impact on fertility. While many women with fibroids conceive and carry pregnancies to term without issues, others may face challenges:

Effect on Implantation: Submucosal fibroids, which protrude into the uterine cavity, can interfere with embryo implantation, reducing the chances of a successful pregnancy.

Distorted Uterine Anatomy: Large fibroids can alter the shape of the uterus, impacting the ability of a fertilized egg to implant and the embryo to develop.

Blocked Fallopian Tubes: Fibroids can block the fallopian tubes, hindering the passage of sperm to the egg or preventing the fertilized egg from reaching the uterus.

Increased Risk of Pregnancy Complications: Fibroids are associated with an increased risk of complications during pregnancy, including preterm birth, breech birth, and the need for a cesarean section.

Treatment Options

The choice of treatment for fibroids depends on various factors, including the severity of symptoms, the size and location of the fibroids, and the individual’s reproductive goals. Treatment options include:

Watchful Waiting: Watchful waiting is a cautious strategy to fibroids management that is frequently advocated in asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic individuals. During this time, healthcare experts will closely monitor the growth and symptoms of fibroids without intervening immediately. This strategy is particularly suitable for women approaching menopause, as fibroids tend to shrink with declining hormone levels. Regular check-ups and imaging tests are conducted to assess any changes in the size or symptoms of fibroids, allowing for timely intervention if necessary.

Medications: Medications are a frequent treatment option for fibroid symptoms. Hormonal drugs, such as birth control tablets or GnRH agonists, are used to regulate the menstrual cycle and relieve symptoms such as excessive bleeding and pelvic discomfort. Birth control pills control hormonal fluctuations, while GnRH agonists induce a temporary menopausal state, effectively shrinking fibroids. These medications provide relief from symptoms and can be particularly beneficial for individuals who are not ready for or do not desire surgical interventions.

Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE): Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE) is a minimally invasive surgery that obstructs the blood flow of fibroids. A catheter is run via blood channels to the uterus, and minute particles are injected into the uterine arteries, obstructing blood supply to the fibroids. This process causes the fibroids to shrink over time. UAE is a non-surgical alternative to myomectomy or hysterectomy and is considered for women who want to preserve their uterus and avoid more invasive surgical interventions.

Myomectomy: Myomectomy is a surgical procedure aimed at removing fibroids while preserving the uterus. This intervention is suitable for women who wish to maintain fertility or avoid a hysterectomy. There are different types of myomectomy, including abdominal myomectomy (performed through an incision in the abdomen), laparoscopic myomectomy (minimally invasive with small incisions), and hysteroscopic myomectomy (performed through the cervix). Myomectomy addresses specific fibroids, offering relief from symptoms and improving fertility prospects for individuals facing reproductive challenges due to these noncancerous growths.

Hysterectomy: Hysterectomy involves the complete removal of the uterus and is considered a definitive solution for severe fibroid cases, particularly when fertility is not a concern. There are various types of hysterectomy, including total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix), subtotal or partial hysterectomy (removal of the uterus but preserving the cervix), and radical hysterectomy (removal of the uterus, cervix, parts of the vagina, and surrounding tissues). Hysterectomy is generally recommended when fibroids are large, cause significant symptoms, or if other treatments have not been effective.

Fertility Preservation and Fibroids

For individuals diagnosed with fibroids who are also concerned about preserving their fertility, specific considerations and strategies may be employed:

Preconception Counseling: Seeking guidance from a reproductive specialist before attempting to conceive can help assess the impact of fibroids on fertility and develop a tailored plan.

Surgical Intervention: Depending on the size and location of fibroids, surgical removal (myomectomy) may be performed to enhance fertility.

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): For individuals facing challenges due to fibroids, IVF may be a viable option, allowing for the bypass of potential obstacles within the reproductive system.

Monitoring and Management during Pregnancy: Women with fibroids should receive specialized prenatal care to monitor for potential complications, including preterm birth and breech presentation.


As we conclude this comprehensive guide on fibroids and fertility, it is our hope that readers have gained valuable insights into the complexities of this condition and its potential impact on reproductive health. Armed with knowledge, individuals can make informed decisions, seek timely medical intervention, and embark on their journey towards parenthood with confidence.

Remember, fertility is a deeply personal and often challenging aspect of life, but with the right information and support, it is possible to overcome obstacles and achieve the dream of building a family. Select IVF is here to support you every step of the way, providing expert guidance and compassionate care as you navigate the complexities of fibroids and fertility.

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