Fibroids are a pretty common female reproductive health issue – but one that is still largely misunderstood. If your partner is living with fibroids, the best thing you can do to be supportive is to get informed – especially if you’re on a fertility journey together. Here we’ll explain all about fibroids and the impact they can have when trying to conceive.
What are fibroids?
Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that can grow anywhere in or around the uterus. They’re also sometimes known as uterine myomas or leiomyomas. Fibroids are made up of muscle and tissue and they can be as small as a pea – but sometimes they can grow as large as a melon!
Some fibroids develop in the wall of the womb – these are known as Intramural Fibroids whilst others, known as Subserosal Fibroids can grow outside of the womb. These are the ones that can get very large. There is also a third type of fibroid called Submucosal Fibroids which grow from the womb wall into the womb cavity itself. These are the fibroids most likely to cause issues with fertility.
Fibroids are more common than you may think – with around 70% of women developing fibroids at some point in their lives.
What causes fibroids?
The exact cause of fibroids is still a bit of a mystery but it’s thought to be connected to oestrogen, much like other oestrogen-dependent conditions like endometriosis and adenomyosis. They will often occur around the time oestrogen is highest – around the ages of 30-50 – and then shrink when women reach menopause.
Symptoms of Fibroids
The symptoms and severity of fibroids can differ greatly between people – especially because they can vary so dramatically in size. Around 1 in 3 people who have fibroids will experience no symptoms at all and might not even know they have them.
However, for others, the condition can impact the quality of their life in different ways.
Some of the symptoms include:
- Heavy Periods
- Painful periods
- Pelvic and Abdominal Pain
- Issues with Constipation
- Frequent Need To Urinate
- Pain during and After Sex
Getting diagnosed with fibroids
As fibroids are often asymptomatic (show no symptoms) it’s not always easy to get a diagnosis.
However, if your partner is living with painful, heavy periods or any of the other symptoms on the above list, encourage them to speak to their GP. If a doctor suspects that fibroids may be causing the health issues, they can make a referral for an ultrasound scan.
They may also decide to perform a hysteroscopy or a laparoscopy, where a camera is inserted into the womb either through the vagina (hysteroscopy) or via a small incision (laparoscopy).
Is there a cure for fibroids?
Fibroids will often shrink of their own accord as women get older and their oestrogen levels get lower. However, there are also a few different options for treating them. Doctors may prescribe medication that will slow the growth of the womb lining which can help to alleviate painful, heavy periods. There are also specific medicines called Gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogues (GnRHas) which can help to shrink fibroids.
If the fibroids in question are particularly large, then surgery may be suggested as the best treatment route. The type of surgery will depend on the size of the fibroid and where they are growing. In some extreme cases, people may be advised to have a complete hysterectomy.
Fibroids and Fertility
Many people with fibroids have no problems conceiving – so it’s important to know that fertility issues are not inevitable. Only 2-3% of female factor infertility cases are thought to be solely down to fibroids. However, if you have particularly large fibroids, or they are in certain places in the womb, they can cause some issues.
Fertility problems are most common with Submucosal Fibroids. This is because they grow in the womb itself. If these fibroids are large they can make it hard for sperm to reach the egg, or for a fertilised egg to implant in the lining of the womb.
If you’re struggling with these kinds of fibroids, doctors will often recommend that you have them removed via surgery before trying to conceive or embarking on an assisted fertility journey. Not only will this help to improve your chances of conceiving but will also help to reduce the risk of pregnancy complications including preterm birth.
Supporting a partner with fibroids
If you have a partner living with fibroids, there are some simple ways you can show your support.
- Get Informed – and by reading this article you’ve made a good start!
- Help Them With Their Symptoms – If they struggle with period or pelvic pain offer to give them a massage, cancel plans if they need to and make sure their preferred form of pain relief is always available
- Be Mindful Of Sex – If painful sex is an issue, keep lines of communication open and find out what positions and types of sex are most comfortable and enjoyable for them.
- Support a Healthy Lifestyle – Fibroids can thrive when someone is not looking after themselves. Cook healthy meals together, get out in nature and try some low-impact exercise dates – like a yoga class!
- Take Control of Your Own Fertility – If your partner is struggling with fibroids and worried about their fertility journey, it can be helpful for you to understand what’s going on from your side. Our at home sperm test can help with that!