Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pregnancy and Fibroids

As if pregnancy pains aren't bad enough, I have another complication to worry about: Fibroids.

And I'm not alone, although that does little to make me feel better! About 50% to 80% of all women experience fibroids, although they are more common in women over the age of 30 or who are African American. I am 32 and my mom has told me that she had fibroids when she was pregnant with me, although I did not learn this until I told her first about my fibroids.

Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that grow in or around the uterus. They can be microscopic, the size of a pea or a golf ball or as big as a grapefruit or volleyball. I have three of these suckers, with the biggest one being 5 centimeters in diameter (golf ball size).

Sometimes, fibroids can cause excessive menstrual pain, painful urination, pain during intercourse, infertility or back pain. Most times, however, they go unnoticed. It's not unusual for a woman to discover, as I did, that she has fibroids during her first pregnancy ultrasound.

The good news is that most women with fibroids end up delivering healthy babies.

The bad news is that fibroids could cause a miscarriage early in pregnancy or grow in size during pregnancy, blocking the baby's space to grow, or blocking your cervix so that you'll need a c-section to deliver. Also, during the mid-point in pregnancy (I am 24 weeks along), they could get so large that their blood supply is cut off and they start to degenerate, which causes severe abdominal pain and back ache. This pain could then lead to preterm labor, so it needs to be monitored and taken seriously.

I am on bed rest this week due to pain from degenerating fibroids.

It started Sunday night and continued all of Monday. I didn't know what it was and thought it would go away. But the back ache was piercing and my stomach was in cramps all day. I could feel my baby moving around, so I knew she was fine, but I could not understand the horrible pain I was in. Finally, I called my doctor Tuesday morning. She had me come in that afternoon.

My doctor examined me to make sure that my cervix was closed (it is), listened to the baby's heartbeat (it's strong and healthy!) and checked where the pain was coming from. Sure enough, when she pressed on my fibroids, I let out a yelp. She prescribed me 4 days of indomethacin and sent me home, instructing me to remain on bed rest for at least two days.

Since then, I have done a lot of research on fibroids during pregnancy. If you want to learn more, you can read this, this, this or this. Also helpful: this and this.

I am happy to report that I am feeling MUCH better now. I go in next week for a follow-up sonogram to check on the baby and the fibroids and to meet with my doctor. The pain could be gone, or it could return. I'm hoping I've seen the last of these fibroid problems!

I wanted to post this so that you all are aware of fibroids and the complications they could present before or during pregnancy. I had never heard of fibroids before I became pregnant. It's always better to be informed so that if you find yourself with unexplainable pain, you know at least one thing that could be causing it.

Always call your doctor, with any pain. Hopefully your caregiver will be as proactive as mine is in monitoring and taking care of the situation.

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