If you have fibroids, you may worry about future pregnancy. Uterine fibroids aren’t usually cancerous, which is good news. But they grow in your womb, and they’re very common during your reproductive years. Fibroids develop as single tumors or as multiple growths. Depending on the type, size, and number of fibroids you have, they could affect your pregnancy.
Recently, Greenleaf star Deborah Joy Winans announced her pregnancy after a fibroids journey. Just a year before announcing her pregnancy, Winans’ doctors discovered she had eight large fibroids. While she was considering her treatment options, she also learned she was pregnant.
Right away, she learned this could be a problem. Winans told Essence magazine, “When [the doctor] started to tell me the things that will happen in my body because of the fibroids and the things that the baby might face, I just was like, ‘Okay, this is really, really serious. ”
Just months later, Winans wound up in the ER with terrible pain and vomiting. There, she learned that degenerating fibroids were responsible for her misery. Next, she needed a surgical procedure to close her cervix, which was opening too soon. Following that procedure, bed rest was in order. So, today she says she’s simply hoping to carry her baby closer to her due date. “As long as I can get to 28 [weeks]… [my doctor] knows that [the baby will] be good and healthy if he came that early. So, 28 is the goal.”
Of course, delivering her baby isn’t ideal. But pre-term labor isn’t the only way fibroids affect pregnancy. In fact, studies suggest, they could also impact your health in ways that don’t involve your growing fetus.
How Fibroids Impact Pregnancy
Sometimes, fibroids make it hard to conceive. This is especially true if your growths block your fallopian tubes. You may also have a hard time getting pregnant if a fibroid in your uterus blocks a fertilized egg from implanting in your uterine lining. Also, fibroids can increase your risk for miscarriage, once you conceive.
Now, if you do become pregnant with fibroids, and don’t lose the pregnancy, you may experience certain complications.
- Your baby’s growth could be restricted if a large fibroid takes up too much uterine space.
- A large fibroid could come between your placenta and uterine wall, causing a serious complication. This situation, called placental abruption, limits fetal oxygen and nutrient levels.
- While we aren’t sure why, painful fibroids may trigger contractions. This could be why many women with fibroids experience pre-term labor.
Recently, a new study from the Journal of Hypertension reveals a new way fibroids impact pregnancy. After following more than 2000 pregnant women, they discovered that fibroids during pregnancy increased mom’s risk for hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (HDP.) This is a group of conditions that includes preeclampsia, gestational hypertension and chronic hypertension (high blood pressure.) All of these conditions may be life threatening for mom and baby. So the study concludes that your doctor should closely monitor your blood pressure if you are pregnant with fibroids.
Additionally, your fibroids can impact the delivery process. In fact, fibroids increase your risk for a necessary C-section by as much as six times! Plus, when fibroids distort the shape of your uterus, they increase the chance of delivering a baby in breech position (feet first, instead of head first.)
Fibroid Treatment While Pregnant
Barring a medical emergency, you shouldn’t treat fibroids during pregnancy. Now, if you only discover fibroids after getting pregnant, you don’t need to panic. Many women who have fibroids and are pregnant won’t experience any symptoms. Still, your OB will likely monitor your fibroids with ultrasounds throughout your pregnancy. That way, you’ll be prepared if any complications arise.
But what if you know you have fibroids, and you’re thinking about pregnancy? Especially if your fibroids are symptomatic, your physician may recommend that you have them treated before considering a pregnancy. Even though most fibroids are nothing to be concerned about, it’s important to know that:
- Fibroids can cause pain during your pregnancy
- You may have an increased risk of miscarriage
- The likelihood of preterm labor is higher
- Placental abruptions can occur Fibroids
It is important to talk with your obgyn and interventional radiologist in Houston
to determine the best fibroid treatment option if you are planning a pregnancy. Different types of fibroids can affect a pregnancy differently – learn more about the difference between subserosal, intramural, submucosal, and pedunculated fibroids.
There is not currently conclusive data about the ability to conceive and have a safe pregnancy after a uterine fibroid embolization procedure. If you are interested in uterine fibroid embolization, Houston Fibroids recommends that you wait until you do not wish to become pregnant again to preserve your future fertility. Learn more about UFE and Fertility here.
UFE as an Alternative to a Hysterectomy
Although we do not recommend undergoing uterine artery embolization if you are planning a pregnancy, there are many other benefits to UFE if you do not wish to become pregnant. In addition to relieving symptoms of fibroids, including heavy periods, urinary dysfunction, and pelvic pain, other benefits to UFE include:
- Preservation of your uterus, which prevents an early onset of menopause
- It is a non-surgical procedure
- There is typically less blood loss
- You’ll have shorter hospital stay
Contact Dr. Fox and Dr. Hardee at Houston Fibroids to learn more about uterine fibroid embolization and find out if you are a good candidate for this less invasive procedure.