Fibroids are slowly becoming a common problem amongst many Nigerian women. Around 40% of Nigerian women of reproductive age have fibroids growing in or around their wombs at some point, and many do not even realise that fibroids can affect fertility. Close to 30% of women in Nigeria between the ages of 24-40 may develop fibroid symptoms.
What are fibroids?
They are tumours from uterine muscle tissue, usually found in or around the womb. They are not cancerous and can vary quite a lot in size. Many women never get any symptoms and do not realise they have them.
What causes fibroids?
Their growth is linked to the action of oestrogen. Oestrogen is a reproductive hormone produced by your ovaries. Fibroids usually develop between the ages of 16 and 50 and can shrink after menopause, when levels of reproductive hormones drop.
They’re not dangerous in themselves but may need treatment if they start to cause problems, and, in some cases, they can impact fertility.
How do I know I have fibroids?
Around one in three women with fibroids develop symptoms, including pain and heavy bleeding. Sometimes, they can also press on the bladder and intestine, making you need the toilet a lot and have painful sex.
Symptoms of fibroid
The most common symptoms in women who experience them are:
- Heavy and painful bleeding
- Lower back pain
- Frequent miscarriages
- Spotting between periods
- Anaemia due to excess bleeding
- Bloating in the lower abdomen
- DIffoculy urinating
Fibroids and Pregnancy in Nigeria women
Most fibroids don’t grow while you’re pregnant, but if it happens, it most likely will be during your first 3 months (first trimester). That’s because fibroids need a hormone called estrogen to grow.
The primary problems that could occur are bleeding, pain and miscarriages. In the second and third trimesters, fibroids may cause pain, miscarriage, and preterm birth, but after pregnancy, they shrink.
Sometimes fibroids will not affect your pregnancy. However, 20 to 30% of women may have complications in their pregnancy.
The most common complication is pain. However, fibroids during pregnancy may increase your risk of specific problems, such as:
- Disruption of fetal growth: Due to the competition for space, the foetus may not be able to grow well.
- Placental blockage: Sometimes, the placenta might get blocked or pulled out. The foetus will lack adequate nourishment and exchange of oxygen.
- C-section: Research has shown that women with fibroids are six times more prone to deliver through a caesarean section.
- Miscarriage: Research has shown that women with fibroids are twice more susceptible to a miscarriage than normal pregnancies.
Can fibroids shrink after pregnancy?
Yes, a fibroid can shrink after pregnancy.
How can fibroids be treated during pregnancy?
Because of a growing foetus, adequate hydration, sleep, rest, and pain relievers may be the best option. Your doctor may perform a myomectomy if you’re halfway through your second trimester. The fibroid is removed outside the uterus without removing the uterus.
Fibroids rarely affect the status of pregnancy. However, some women may not carry their pregnancies till full term due to certain complications.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and weight is the key to managing fibroids during pregnancy. After childbirth, you may discuss other management methods with your doctor.