Commonly consisting of muscle and fibrous tissue, fibroids are growths that can develop on the wall or outside of the uterus. Although fibroids are sometimes called tumors, they're usually benign (noncancerous). Often developing prior to pregnancy, fibroids can vary in size. Many women don't know they have fibroids until they have a pelvic exam.
Most women with fibroids don't experience pregnancy complications. But common symptoms can include abdominal pain accompanied by vaginal bleeding and a low-grade fever. While it's uncommon for flare-ups to harm your unborn baby, you should speak to your doctor if you have any symptoms. Your healthcare provider may recommend bed rest, ice packs, or medication. With treatment, symptoms generally subside in a few days. Fluctuating pregnancy hormones can cause fibroids to grow larger. If this occurs, your doctor may recommend an ultrasound to see if your growths are likely to cause complications. Enlarged fibroids often shrink after delivery.
Unfortunately, having this condition can put you at a slightly higher risk of miscarriage or premature delivery, especially if your growths are large. If the placenta implants itself over a large fibroid, you can have an increased risk of placental abruption (when the placenta separates partially or completely from the uterine wall prior to delivery). Fibroids can also block the cervical opening, increasing the likelihood of cesarean delivery.
If you have growths, ask your doctor whether their size or position could pose problems, and which signs to watch for.
Many pregnant women have questions about how their health will affect their baby. Even if your most serious problem is a common cold, never hesitate to discuss your concerns with your doctor so that you can work together to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
Richard H. Schwarz, MD, obstetrical consultant to the March of Dimes, is past president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; vice chairman for clinical services, Maimonides Medical Center; and professor of obstetrics and gynecology, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, both in Brooklyn.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, February 2004.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your won health or the health of others.