It is estimated that 3 out of 4 women suffer from uterine fibroids at some point of their life and most of these women don’t even know about it. Fibroids may exist but may cause no symptoms; you could be reading this article and have two or more uterine fibroids growing. It is just after a routine pelvic exam or during an ultrasound procedure when these fibroids are discovered. But what are fibroids exactly?
What are fibroids?
Uterine fibroids develop from a single cell of the muscles of the uterine lining; this cell reproduces repeatedly until a firm, rubbery mass that appears different from the surrounding tissue develops. Fibroids may vary in sizes; it can be as small as a tiny seedling and may grow into as large as the uterus itself. Fibroids are also non cancerous and only a few cases develop into a full blown pathological case.
Fibroids can be only one or may multiply in time. Uterine fibroids may also grow in different areas of the uterus: the inner lining, the outer lining of the uterus and may also grow from stalk-like growth with the fibrous mass hanging from the stalk. But regardless of the size and the type of fibroids, as soon as the blood supply that feeds the growth is interrupted or is sloughed off (as in the case of the lining of the uterus), the growth withers and dies. So this is just a part of the problem and at this point you know what are fibroids, but how do fibroids affect to your body? lets see.
What are fibroids and do these affect women?
Up to this day, what are fibroids and the cause of uterine fibroids remains to be unknown; but specialists and researchers agree that it could be caused by hormones estrogen and progesterone that stimulate the lining of the uterus. Genetic alternations and exposure to chemicals that can lead to changes in the cells of the body; these can affect the muscle cells of the uterus causing abnormalities like fibroids, appear.
And with the increase in possibility of having fibroids, specialists have studied the effect of this condition to women’s health, relationships and her ability to raise a family.
Women who have fibroids may have a few to no symptoms to seek medical help. Initially there are symptoms that may just be overlooked:
- Menstrual changes – she may find irregular menses with weeks when the flow seems to be heavier compared to other months. Periods may last for more than 5 days to a week accompanied with abdominal pain, feeling of heaviness on the pelvic areas and on lower back. All these symptoms may be overlooked to just regular symptoms of having menstrual periods and are sometimes not a cause for worry in some women.
- Painful changes – she may suffer from back pain, leg pain and pain on the upper thighs when fibrous growths enlarge and press on nerve endings that are abundant near the uterus. Pain may increase as a person is in a relaxed, supine position. Pain may affect usual daily activities and may also affect gait. She may not be able to perform activities that she can do before without experiencing pain on the lower extremities and on the lower back.
- Urination and bowel changes – there are women who experience changes in bowel movement when large fibroids press on the sections of the bowel causing constipation and other gastrointestinal conditions. There is also expected reduction or difficulty in urination since the fibroid mass can also press on the urinary bladder and on the tubules that lead to bladder causing increase in urgency to urinate and increase filling of the bladder.
- There is also pain with intercourse when the fibroid may press the walls of the uterus.
- Menopause – fibroids can become complicated and affect the secretion of the hormones progesterone and estrogen which can lead to premature menopause symptoms. Aside from cessation of the menstrual period, she may suffer from menopause symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, abdominal pain, etc.
Although uterine fibroids are considered non cancerous, having been diagnosed of having these growths can affect a woman emotionally and psychologically. She may worry about the fibroid developing into a cancerous growth or worry about the expenses of the treatment or surgical procedure. Lack of knowledge about fibroids can lead to anxiety and stress that can affect her work, her career, her relationships and her family. It is common for women who are diagnosed with fibroids to feel depressed and may also question as to why this condition has happened.
Some women may seek what are fibroids consultation immediately as well as seek medical treatment for their condition which reduces the possibilities for more complications as well as improve her knowledge of her condition.
There are a few women who may suffer from pain while intercourse which leads to a strain in her sexual intimacy with her partner. Although some partners may truly understand this condition, some who don´t know what are fibroids may resort to blaming and aggression than can only affect the woman’s psychological condition.
Fibroids may grow and block the passage of egg from the fallopian tubes to meet the sperm at the cervix causing infertility. Some large fibroids may also grow and develop on the inner lining of the uterus reducing the potential blood supply of a fertilized embryo resulting to miscarriage. It is therefore important to seek medical help for fibroids before considering pregnancy.
Effects during pregnancy
Although it is not necessary to remove fibroids during pregnancy; the growth may develop into a large mass affecting the unborn child as the mass may restrict nutrients and blood flow to the neighboring placenta. Fibroids can increase the possibility of placenta previa where the placenta detaches from the walls of the uterus and may also complicate pregnancy. The baby may present with the feet or the shoulders instead of a head delivery through normal vaginal delivery. Some obstetricians resort to caesarian delivery when a pregnant woman is diagnosed with uterine fibroids. Fibroids may also increase the possibility of bleeding and pain after delivery. Recovery after pregnancy and delivery may take longer when a woman also has fibroids. for this reason is very important to know what are fibroids before you consider getting pregnant.