What Are Uterine Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids (also called myomas or leiomyomas) are benign (noncancerous) tumors of muscle tissue that can change the shape or size of the uterus and sometimes the cervix. They start in the smooth muscle cells inside the wall of the uterus (myometrium). Fibroids usually occur in the form of multiple tumors, although single fibroids are sometimes possible. Fibroids are noted in twenty percent of women in the reproductive years. Whether fibroids cause symptoms or require any type of treatment depends on their location and size in the uterus. Fibroids occur when a single muscle cell in the wall of the uterus multiplies to form a noncancerous tumor.

What Causes Uterine Fibroids? 

The exact cause of uterine fibroids is unclear, but there is evidence that it may be a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors. Researchers think that uterine fibroid tumors may form because of muscle cells inside the uterus that aren't normal. These cells then copy themselves quickly because of estrogen found in women's bodies.

Fibroids are usually found in or around the body of the uterus, but they sometimes occur in the cervix. Fibroids within the uterus can be divided into three categories: subserous (located in the outer wall of the uterus); intramural (found in the muscular layers of the uterine wall); and submucous (protruding into the uterine cavity).

The only cure for fibroids that currently exists is to have a hysterectomy. During a hysterectomy, doctors remove the uterus.

Who Gets Uterine Fibroids?

Women who are close to menopause have the highest chances of developing fibroids. Women who are in middle age have been exposed to estrogen for years, which helps fibroids grow. Obese women also may have a higher chance of developing fibroids, in addition to women who have African American heritage. Doctors don't entirely understand why this is.

Other things that may increase your chances for developing uterine fibroids include the following:

  • Eating a diet with a lot of red meat
  • Having a family history of uterine fibroids
  • Having high blood pressure

Can Fibroids Decrease Fertility?

Uterine fibroids are common, and they are found in five to ten percent of infertile women. Certain types of fibroids are known to decrease fertility. They include fibroids that are inside the uterine cavity and very large fibroids (>6 cm in diameter) that are located within the wall of the uterus. Because most women with fibroids will not be infertile, they and their partners should have a thorough evaluation to detect other problems that can decrease fertility. A fertility specialist can help determine if fibroids might be hampering their ability to conceive.

How do fibroids cause infertility?

There are several explanations for why uterine fibroids may reduce fertility.

  • Changes in the position of the cervix (the vaginal opening to the womb) due to fibroids located above it may affect the number of sperm that can travel through the cervix.
  • Changes in the shape of the uterus can interfere with sperm movement.
  • Blockage of the fallopian tubes by the fibroids.
  • Affecting the blood flow to the uterine cavity where the embryo would implant.
  • Changes in the uterine muscle that prevent movement of the sperm or the embryo.

Summary

Uterine fibroids are common and can affect fertility in many ways. They can affect ovulation, fertilization, and implantation. Treatment options vary, but treatment will help to address the gynecologic symptoms of fibroids and improve overall fertility. Our fertility experts will work to address your individual situation, as the proper management of uterine fibroids will depend upon the severity of your symptoms.

Douglas T. Carrell, PhD, HCLD

Doug Carrell received his Ph.D. degree in reproductive physiology from the University of Utah in 1995, after receiving a M.S. degree in cellular and developmental biology from Brigham Young University. Dr. Carrell has worked in the area of research and treatment of human infertility for 35 years. Dr. Carrell is the clinical laboratory director of t... Read More

Specialties:

Andrology, In Vitro Fertilization, Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility

Locations:

Andrology & IVF Laboratories 801-581-3740

Erica B. Johnstone, MD

Patient Rating:

4.6

4.6 out of 5

Erica B. Johnstone, M.D., M.H.S., is a gynecologist and reproductive endocrinologist in the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. Dr. Johnstone clinical interests include reproductive endocrine disorders and all types of infertility, and she also works with hormonal disorders in children and adolescents. Her research interests in... Read More

Megan Link, MD

Megan H. Link, M.D., is a gynecologist and reproductive endocrinologist in the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.  Dr. Link’s clinical interests include endometriosis, fertility preservation, reproductive endocrine disorders and all types of infertility.  Dr. Link received her bachelor’s degree from The College of Idaho and ear... Read More

C. Matthew Peterson, MD

Patient Rating:

4.8

4.8 out of 5

Matthew Peterson, M.D., is a Reproductive Endocrinologist in the University of Utah Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Peterson received his undergraduate degree, magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in 1977 and his M.D. from the University of Utah in 1981. His residency training in obstetrics and gynecology was accomplished at M... Read More

Specialties:

OB/Gyn, General, Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility

Locations:

A location has not yet been added by this physician.

Reproductive Medicine services are available at the Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine as well as multiple locations through out the state of Utah, including Centerville, Orem, South Jordan and Park City. Our reproductive endocrinologists offer a wide range of services including:

  • Infertility counseling
  • Infertility monitoring and treatment
  • IUD insertion and removal
  • Annual gynecological exams
  • Endocrinology
  • Diagnosis and treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome
  • In vitro fertilization
  • Treatment of endometriosis
  • Pediatric and adolescent gynecology services

Our highly trained reproductive endocrinology specialists are experts in both the treatment and research of infertility and our clinic consistently boasts one of the highest success rates in the nation.

Neighborhood Health Center Locations:

Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine 675 Arapeen Drive, Suite 205
Salt Lake City, Utah 84108-1237
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University of Utah Health
Centerville Health Center
26 South Main
Centerville, Utah 84014
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Dixie Regional Medical Center 544 South 300 East
St. George, UT 84770
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University of Utah Health
South Jordan Health Center
5126 W. Daybreak Parkway
South Jordan, 84009
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