Fibroids and infertility

Just found this informative article while reading another one and thought you may find it interesting. The article is from the Sunday Times October 19th . It is fairly long so I have edited it down.

Why are we so slow to spot fertility-threatening fibroids?

“I wish to God someone had sat me down when I was 30 and said, ‘You need to be having babies now,’ ” says Elaine Foran, a 40-year-old celebrity agent. Foran has had three miscarriages as a result of fibroids, a condition that affects up to half of all women, yet is often misdiagnosed or ignored. “It wasn’t until I had a miscarriage that the fibroids were spotted on a scan,” she says. “Nobody had even suggested I might have them before. People are quite embarrassed to talk about them. I bet if it was a condition that affected men, we would all know more.”

Fibroids are noncancerous growths of muscle tissue that form in the uterus, and can lead to infertility and miscarriage. They usually occur when a woman is in her thirties or forties, which means they are becoming an issue for increasing numbers of women choosing to have children later in life.

Yet there seems to be a conspiracy of silence about fibroids; because there are often no symptoms, they are rarely mentioned or checked for, until it is too late. Treatment can also be hit and miss. Doctors used to perform a hysterectomy in serious cases, but now that is a less viable option, as more women want to remain fertile for longer.

After three miscarriages, Foran decided to seek private treatment, and last year she had 17 fibroids removed in an operation known as a myomectomy. This is a complicated surgical procedure with a number of risks, and it can make conceiving more difficult. Foran felt she had no choice. “If I hadn’t had the operation, it would have meant getting pregnant again and potentially losing another baby,” she says. “After my last miscarriage, I was very depressed. I would wake up every day at 4am, and it took me a long time to recover.”

Foran’s operation went well, but since then she has not been able to conceive. “It is early days, but I have always got pregnant really easily, so I’m worried. The problem is that the fibroids were on the wall of my uterus, and you can get scar tissue that stops an embryo attaching,” she says.

Fibroids: the facts

Fibroids are benign growths of muscle that occur in the womb. They can be as small as a pea or as big as a melon. An estimated 20%-50% of women develop fibroids at some stage in their lives, usually those aged 30 to 50 who have not had children.

Symptoms can include heavy bleeding, weight gain, increased frequency of urination, back pain and trouble getting or staying pregnant. Many women, however, have no symptoms.

Fibroids are one of the leading reasons for hysterectomies, which are carried out on about 30,000 women a year in the UK. They are never removed during pregnancy because of the risk of bleeding.

The cause of fibroids is unknown, but genetics are a factor. If a woman’s mother had fibroids, her risk of having them is about three times higher than average.

An Italian study found that women who eat little meat but a lot of green vegetables and fruit seem less likely to develop fibroids than women who eat a lot of red meat and few vegetables.

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