Uterine fibroids are tumours which grow from cells forming the muscle of the uterus (womb). Uterine fibroids, which are also called leiomyoma or myoma of the uterus, can grow on the uterine wall and push out into the bladder, bowel or intestine. They can also grow within the uterine wall, or even project from the wall of the uterus on a narrow stalk into the uterine cavity.
No one is certain what causes uterine fibroids, but changing estrogen levels seem to play a part in their growth. When estrogen levels are high, as a result of pregnancy or contraceptive pills for example, the rate of fibroid growth increases.
About 20 per cent of women of childbearing age have uterine fibroids but they are not usually found in women under 30 years old. They rarely appear in young women before they begin menstruating.As a woman approaches menopause and her estrogen levels decrease, uterine fibroids are likely to shrink or almost disappear. Apart from being a woman of reproductive age, no other risk factors for fibroids have been found.
Many women never even know they have uterine fibroids. If symptoms do exist, they may include : -
There is evidence that fibroids are associated with subfertility (reduced fertility). They have been linked with an increased risk of miscarriage in the first and second trimester and an increased risk of premature delivery. Fibroids have also been linked with a reduction in the success rate of fertility treatments.
However, there is lack of agreement on exactly how and why this is so, because some women go on to conceive and have successful pregnancies despite having relatively large fibroids. One theory is that the fibroids distort the uterus in a way that affects conception, while another theory is that the ability to carry a pregnancy is impaired because the fibroid affects the blood flow.
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