Can Fibroids Affect Your Fertility?
So many different factors can play a role in affecting your ability to get pregnant and deliver a healthy baby. One potential factor which affects about 20-50% of women of reproductive age and 50–80% of African-American women is uterine fibroids. They are a common condition and often run in families. If your mother had fibroids, there’s a good chance you might have them, too.
What are Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) tumors that occur in the muscle tissue of the uterus. Women usually have more than one fibroid and they vary in size and location; their size is often described by fruit, e.g., the size of a grapefruit. They can change both the size and shape of the uterus and affect the cervix. It is size and location that often affect whether you experience symptoms, experience infertility and need treatment.
There are three major different types of fibroids that differ based on where they are located:
- Subserosal are in the outer wall of the uterus (55%)
- Intramural are found in the muscular layers of the uterine wall (40%)
- Submucosal protrude into the uterine cavity (5%)
Why fibroids develop is still unclear but genetics, hormones, and environmental factors all likely play a role.
The most common way your doctor will determine if you have fibroids and assess their size, number and location is through a physical exam and ultrasound. In some cases, additional imaging tests such as an MRI may be required.
Can Fibroids Cause Infertility?
It’s a complex issue. Estimates suggest that about 5-10% of women facing infertility have fibroids and it is their size and location which may create problems. Fibroids that are very large – greater than 6 centimeters in diameter – and those located inside the uterine cavity are examples of situations where fibroids may affect your ability to get pregnant and deliver a healthy baby. Studies show that in most cases, it is only submucosal fibroids which protrude into the uterus that may affect fertility. There are exceptions including large fibroids that block the openings of fallopian tubes into the uterus.
Most women who have fibroids will not face infertility as a result. If there are problems, a woman and her partner should find out if there are other factors involved prior to seeking treatment for fibroids. Your fertility specialist can evaluate whether fibroids may be an issue and whether any treatment is needed.