Last updated on Jun 11th, 2021 at 08:39 pm

Good news, you’re pregnant! Surprising news, your gynaecologist has told you that you also have uterine fibroids. If you haven’t experienced any symptoms up until now, you may wonder how they will impact your pregnancy. Here are five facts you should know.

Fibroids are common

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths, or clumps of tissue, that develop inside the muscular wall of the uterus. They’re very common among women of childbearing age, and can develop during pregnancy.

Fibroids can vary in size

Some fibroids are the size of a pea and stay that way, while others can be as large as an orange, and it’s common to have more than one fibroid in the uterus. Although studies have shown that in most cases uterine fibroids don’t grow and aren’t threatening during pregnancy they can change size in the first trimester (especially in the first 10 weeks). This is often due to increased oestrogen levels. The good news is, in the third trimester, they tend to shrink. So if you’re diagnosed with fibroids in pregnancy and they don’t grow in the first trimester, they’re likely to stay the same size and even shrink as the pregnancy progresses.

Fibroids can be harmless or problematic

Fibroids are often harmless with no noticeable symptoms before, during and after pregnancy. However, some women do experience symptoms, depending on the size of the fibroids and where they are in the uterus.

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Symptoms include:

  • Pelvic pain and pressure
  • Pain in the back and legs
  • Bladder pressure leading to a frequent urge to urinate (which happens with pregnancy too)
  • Pressure on the bowel, leading to constipation and bloating
  • Abnormally enlarged stomach (which might not be noticeable with the pregnancy).

You’ll need to be monitored throughout your pregnancy

Uterine fibroids (especially larger ones or smaller ones that grow) have been linked to miscarriage and early labour. This is because the fibroids can restrict the growth of the foetus or cause problems with the uterus itself. However, these complications are rare and you’ll more than likely just have some pain during pregnancy, which can be managed with medication. As you reach the end of your pregnancy, your doctor will need to check where the fibroids are. If a fibroid is located near the bottom of your uterus, near the cervix, it could block the baby’s passage into the birth canal, in which case, your midwife or doctor will make birth recommendations accordingly.

There’s no miracle cure to treat fibroids

Because it’s not possible to have fibroids removed during pregnancy, doctors recommend that you have them taken out prior to falling pregnant as this also improves fertility rates. For those who don’t want surgery, US-based radiologist Dr Neil Halin suggests uterine fibroid embolisation as an alternative procedure. A thin tube with a solution is inserted into the arteries to block blood flow to the fibroids, causing them to shrink or be destroyed.  The process usually takes one to three hours and patients spend a few hours in hospital (or stay overnight) to recover.

Diet also plays a role in helping to minimise the size and growth of uterine fibroids. Because their growth is linked to hormonal changes, it’s important to eat a healthy diet with plenty of low GI (slow release) and unprocessed carbohydrates, nuts, pulses, fruits and vegetables. Proteins should be free from hormones, preservatives and artificial antibiotics.

If you’re planning to start or expand a family, it’s time to check your health and well-being. Click here for a list of medical checks you need.