With back-to-school season in full effect right now, we thought it would be a good time to talk about menstrual health education. Especially uterine fibroids—a topic that is often overlooked when providing general information.
Did you know it’s estimated that 80% of African American women will have uterine fibroids by age 50? And of that, approximately 25% of all women with fibroids have symptoms that require treatment. So, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on the symptoms, treatments, and the impact they can have on fertility.
According to the Mayo Clinic, uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths of the uterus that often appear during childbearing years. The most common symptoms are periods lasting longer than a week, heavy bleeding, pelvic pressure or pain, frequent urination, difficulty emptying your bladder, constipation, backaches and leg pains.
Finding a treatment
When treating uterine fibroids, surgery can be one option. For example, a myomectomy removes fibroids without taking out the healthy tissue of the uterus. A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of all or part of the uterus, or womb. The doctor may also remove the fallopian tubes, ovaries and/or the cervix during the same surgery.
There are also many prescription medications for uterine fibroids that target the hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle, and treat symptoms like heavy menstrual bleeding and pelvic pressure. While they may not eliminate fibroids, they may shrink them.
Impacts on Fertility
Let’s address one myth right away, most fibroids do not cause infertility. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, approximately 5% to 10% of women who are infertile have fibroids. However, uterine fibroids can reduce fertility by blocking fallopian tubes, causing changes in the shape of the cervix. This may reduce the number of sperm entering the uterus, impacting the uterus shape and lining, and affecting blood flow to the uterine cavity. Ultimately, this could also decrease the ability of an embryo to stick (implant) to the uterine wall or to develop.
If you suspect you have uterine fibroids that may be causing problems with conception, it’s best to talk with your doctor. They may be able to recommend treatments and a fertility specialist if it’s needed. So, don’t be afraid to bring it up at your next visit.