If you’ve been diagnosed with fibroids, you’re likely concerned about related pregnancy complications, and evidence suggests that you may have reason to be. Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors that commonly develop in the uterus during the childbearing years, with up to 80% of women affected by age 50. Common symptoms include heavy periods, pelvic pain or pressure, low energy, pain during sex, and frequent urination. At times, fibroid symptoms can be debilitating.
While there are a variety of effective fibroid treatments available, they are generally reserved for before or after pregnancy. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t take measures during pregnancy to help keep you and your baby healthy. At USA Fibroid Centers, we believe in the power of information when it comes to dealing with personal health issues. Here’s everything you need to know about what to expect with uterine fibroids when you’re pregnant.
Fibroids and Pregnancy
Although most women don’t experience any related complications during pregnancy, research indicates that 10-30% develop complications due to fibroids. These can include pain (most common), vaginal bleeding, spontaneous miscarriage, preterm labor, placenta abruption, cesarean delivery, and postpartum hemorrhage.
Along with causing an increased risk for complications, fibroids can grow during pregnancy due to an increase in hormones. This can often result in the development or worsening of painful and inconvenient symptoms.
Fibroid and the First Trimester
The first trimester is the most common time for fibroid growth. About one-third of fibroids in pregnant women grow during these initial 12 weeks.
Complications may include:
- Pain: Throughout pregnancy, pain is the most common issue caused by fibroids, and may occur in the pelvis, abdomen, lower back, hip, or down the leg.
- Vaginal Bleeding: Although spotting during early pregnancy is common and often harmless, any bleeding can be alarming. If you have fibroids and experience any bleeding, we recommend contacting your doctor immediately.
- Early Miscarriage: Of concern, early miscarriage rates are approximately double –– occurring in 14% of pregnancies — for women with fibroids vs. 7.6% for women without them. Multiple fibroids during pregnancy, as opposed to large individual ones, appear to increase the possibility of early miscarriage.
Fibroids and the Second and Third Trimesters
As your baby grows and the uterus expands, you may be surprised to learn that after the first trimester, there is very little actual fibroid growth. With that said, you may still face complications, including:
Fibroid Pain During Pregnancy: Pain is the most common symptom reported during the second and third trimesters, and it is often experienced with large fibroids that are over five centimeters. Although rare, severe pain can also occur in cases of red degeneration during pregnancy. This process typically involves the torsion of a thyroid stalk (pedunculated fibroid). Symptoms include acute pain, fever, and abdominal tenderness.
Placental Abruption: This condition occurs when the placenta partially or completely separates from the uterus before childbirth –– putting both the mother and baby at risk. Data suggests that women with fibroids are three times more likely to experience placental abruption than women without fibroids. Symptoms include vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, back pain, uterine tenderness, and contractions. If you are experiencing any of these, you should seek emergency care.
Preterm Labor: Any birth contractions that begin before 37 weeks gestation are considered preterm labor. Symptoms can include changes in vaginal discharge, pelvic pressure, back pain, abdominal cramps, and contractions. In addition, your water can break. Your doctor may try to stop or slow down preterm labor with the use of medication. Although some preterm babies go on to have healthy lives, others experience lifelong consequences.
Fetal Growth Restriction: This refers to a fetus who doesn’t grow at a normal rate within the womb. Fibroids can affect baby growth if the fibroids are very large. When born, the baby may have a low birth weight, low Apgar scores, meconium aspiration, decreased oxygen levels, low blood sugar, or a variety of other health challenges. Your doctor will take fundal measurements at each prenatal visit to help detect any growth abnormalities.
Fibroids and Postpartum
Fibroids can still increase the risk of complications during and after delivery.
- Fibroids During Labor: Studies indicate that the odds of a woman with fibroids having a C-section –– the surgical removal of a baby through incisions in the abdomen and uterus –– are up to six times greater than for a woman without fibroids. Uterine fibroids can prevent contractions, block the birth canal, or lead to a breech position. Babies born via C-section can experience both short and long-term health problems.
- Fibroids After Delivery: Postpartum hemorrhage –– more bleeding than normal after delivery –– is another potential complication that individuals with fibroids are significantly more likely to experience.
- Fibroids Beyond Delivery: You may be wondering what happens to symptomatic fibroids after your baby is born. The good news is that fibroids often shrink at this point; though unfortunately for some, this isn’t always the case. If you continue to suffer from fibroid symptoms after giving birth, it’s important to alert a fibroid specialist.
Treating Fibroid Pain While Pregnant
Although you should avoid uterine fibroid treatment during pregnancy, you don’t necessarily have to suffer for the duration of these nine months. Our women’s health experts recommend using the following natural remedies to help manage your fibroid symptoms during pregnancy:
- Apply a warm water bottle to painful areas
- Exercise to increase your body’s natural painkiller, endorphins
- Take warm baths
- Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fiber and beta carotene-rich foods
- Manage your blood pressure
- Reduce stress through relaxation techniques like yoga, massage, meditation and Tai chi
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid alcohol and smoking
If you are pregnant and have fibroids, make sure you are under the care of a medical professional. Because you are more likely to develop pregnancy complications when you have fibroids, your doctor will want to keep a close eye on you and your baby for any initial signs of potential trouble. When it comes to maintaining good health, early intervention is often key to the best outcomes.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization
Uterine fibroids are most common during the reproductive years, so it comes as no surprise to us that many of our patients are concerned about preserving fertility. Some avoid treatment altogether because they’ve been told a hysterectomy –– the complete surgical removal of the uterus –– is their only option. We want you to know that this isn’t true.
At USA Fibroid Centers, our experts offer an effective, non-surgical treatment that can preserve your uterus and retain your fertility. Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure that involves less risk and a significantly shorter recovery time than fibroid surgery. If you suffer from symptomatic fibroids, and have not been able to conceive, we suggest inquiring whether you are a good candidate for UFE. While you do not want to undergo uterine fibroid treatment while pregnant, conceiving may become easier if you treat your fibroids prior to becoming pregnant.
Beyond Fibroids and Pregnancy
If you have any remaining concerns about uterine fibroids while pregnant, please discuss them with your doctor or one of our fibroid specialists. While pregnancy is a joyous time for many mothers-to-be, it is also critical to understand the increased risks to you and your baby when fibroids are involved. Simply being aware of potential signs of pregnancy complications can help you know when to seek medical attention. If you have any related concerns at all, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor immediately.
After delivery, your fibroid symptoms may resolve naturally over time. However, if you continue to experience the negative effects of fibroids, we encourage you call us to schedule a consultation with one of our leading experts. After treatment with Uterine Fibroid Embolization, you can quickly get back to enjoying life with your beautiful baby!