Fibroid tumors (leiomyoma) are very common and are almost always benign (non-cancerous). About 20% to 70% of all women will have fibroids at one point or another, whether they know it or not. These tumors are the result of cells in the muscular wall of the uterus that begin to multiply at irregular rates. The longer and more they multiply, the larger the tumors become.
For some women, the presence of fibroids goes entirely unnoticed, for others the tumors’ size, quantity, or location can cause discomfort, irregular bleeding patterns, and fibroid tumors can also cause infertility.
Symptoms of Fibroid Tumors
While some tumors are asymptomatic and are never discovered, others do cause symptoms. Keep in mind, however, just because you’ve never experienced symptoms doesn’t mean fibroids aren’t impacting fertility.
The most common symptoms of fibroids are:
- Heavy periods
- Periods that last longer than a week
- Frequent urination
- Pelvic pain or discomfort
- Difficulty emptying the bladder
- Backache or leg pains
Any of these symptoms should trigger an appointment with your OB/GYN.
Which Fibroids Impact Fertility?
Fibroid tumors are divided into three categories:
- Subserosal. These fibroids are the most common. They are located in the outer wall of the uterus and account for about 55% of all fibroids.
- Intramural. Intramural tumors take up space in the middle layers of the muscular uterine wall. They account for 40% of fibroid tumors, making them the second-most common type.
- Submucosal. The least common fibroids are called submucosal. Because they grow from the interior muscle wall of the uterus, they often protrude into the uterine cavity. They are the least common type of fibroid, only affecting about 5% of women with fibroids.
While some tumors grow like a bulbous mass, others can develop attached by a stalk. These fibroids are called pedunculated fibroids, and they can attach to other pelvic organs such as the bladder, bowel, or even the fallopian tubes.
Most women with fibroids will not have issues with fertility. However, about 5% to 15% of women who can’t get pregnant have fibroid tumors, and fibroids are the direct cause of infertility in about 2% of those cases. This is one of the reasons it is so important to have a full infertility workup if you have trouble getting pregnant (Read, How to Know When to See a Fertility Specialist if you are struggling to conceive).
Fibroids Are More Likely to Cause Infertility When…
There are several ways fibroids contribute to infertility, depending on their size and where they are located. Here are some of the ways fibroids can negatively impact conception and pregnancy.
Compromise the fallopian tube
If the tumor presses against the fallopian tube, it can prevent the egg from getting all the way down or it can make you more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy.
Alter the size of the uterus
A tumor that moves into the uterine cavity can alter its shape or size. This change can affect the sperm/egg’s ability to fertilize or for a fertilized egg to implant into the uterine linings. Once implanted, a small or misshapen uterus can affect the fetus’s development and puts you at higher risk for miscarriages.
Impact cervix shape
If the tumor presses against the cervix, it can block sperm movement through the cervix and into the fallopian tube.
Disrupt the uterine lining
If the tumors alter the uterine lining too much, it can also prevent the implantation of fertilized eggs or can diminish the nourishment available to the embryo, potentially resulting in a miscarriage.
Block blood flow
Similarly, if the tumor blocks blood flow to the uterine lining, the lining won’t be as healthy as it should be, causing the same issues as a disrupted uterine lining.
Our physicians are very experienced when it comes to diagnosing and treating fibroid tumors. If you are looking for a fertility specialist who can preserve fertility while treating your fibroid tumors? Schedule a consultation with Fertility Solutions.