Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that grow in or around a woman’s uterus. As many as 3 out of 4 women will develop fibroids during their child-bearing years.
The uterus, also known as the womb, is a pear-shaped organ located in a woman’s pelvis. It is the part of the reproductive system that holds a baby while it grows and develops. Fibroid tumors can grow individually, or in multiples. Other names for fibroids are leiomyoma, or just myoma. Fibroids can be as small as the size of an apple seed to as large as the size of a grapefruit or melon.
Types of Fibroids
Fibroids are often described by the location in which they grow:
• Myometrial or Intramural fibroids grow inside the walls of the uterus.
• Submucosal fibroids grow inside the hollow cavity of the uterus.
• Subserosal fibroids grow on the outside of the walls of the uterus and extend into the abdomen.
Some fibroids grow into shapes that look like mushrooms, with a long stalk or body. These are known as pendunculated fibroids.
Risk Factors for Fibroids
• Race – African-American women are more likely to have fibroids than white women.
• Age – Fibroids are more common as women get older, often occurring in the 30's or 40's and continuing to grow until a woman reaches menopause, when they typically begin to shrink.
• Family history – If a woman has relatives who have fibroids, she is at higher risk to have them herself. If her mother has fibroids, she is 2 to 3 times more likely to have them.
• Obesity – Very heavy women are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop fibroids.
• Diet – Eating lots of red meat or ham increases the odds of having fibroids. A diet with lots of green vegetables seems to reduce the chances of getting these tumors.
Pregnancy with Fibroids
It is possible to get pregnant and have a healthy child even if you have fibroids. But women who have fibroids are more likely to have some problems during pregnancy and delivery. The most common problems include:
• Preterm delivery
• Slow labor – Labor may fail to progress naturally in women with fibroids.
• Placental abruption – If the placenta breaks away from the wall of the uterus before delivery, the baby may not get enough oxygen.
• Breech –If the fibroids are in the way, the baby may not be positioned well for a vaginal delivery. The baby is breech if it is positioned to deliver feet first instead of head first.
• Cesarean section – A woman with fibroids is six times more likely to need a cesarean deliver than a woman who does not have fibroids.
Talk to your doctor about the risks involved in getting pregnant if you have fibroids and what treatment may be best for you.
Further reading: Fibroids– Symptoms and Treatments