What are Uterine Fibroids?

Fibroids are abnormal growths that develop from smooth muscles inside the uterus. In other words, it can be defined as tumors that are made of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue that develop in the uterus. Scientifically, it is known as leiomyoma or just myoma. Uterine fibroids are almost always benign (not cancerous).

As per a study conducted by the National Institute of Health in India about 25% of women in their reproductive years have noticeable fibroids. There is probably more percentage of women who have tiny fibroids that are undetected. As per the report ‘STANDARD TREATMENT GUIDELINES OBSTETRICS & GYNAECOLOGY Ministry of Health & Family Welfare Govt. of India, nearly 20-30% women in reproductive age group have fibroid uterus. At any given time, nearly 15-25 million Indian women have fibroid uterus. Fibroids develop in women in the age group of 30 to 50 years.

Fibroids in the uterus can grow as a single tumor, or there can be multiple tumors. They usually vary in size. They can be as small as a walnut or at times as big as a grapefruit. In specific cases, they can become very big. Women having fibroids at times show no symptoms, some show mild symptoms, and some might have more severe, disruptive symptoms. Commonly noted symptoms include heavy menstrual bleeding, severe pain and pressure on the pelvis leading to discomfort in the abdomen, bloating, back ache, constipation, and in a few rare cases, infertility. At times, pain can also occur during intercourse due to fibroids but it depends on the location of the fibroids.

The cause of uterine fibroids is still unknown but there is considerable evidence that higher level of female hormones estrogens promote tumor growth as the fibroids. During the reproductive years estrogen activity is high. It means that when the levels of estrogen are reduced the fibroids shrink.

Pregnancy and fibroid

According to mayo clinic experts, fibroids are common but are not a typical cause for infertility accounting for about 3% of reasons why a woman may not be able to have a child. Majority of women with uterine fibroids have normal outcomes during pregnancy.  Fibroids within the uterus may weaken fertility due to its size and location and might cause pregnancy complications that may arise due to fibroid growth in the uterus. Larger fibroids may distort or block the fallopian tubes. Uterine fibroids do not change their size during pregnancy but one third may increase in size during the first trimester.

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