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Fibroids and Pregnancy: What Every Black Woman Needs to Know

pregnantwomanresized.jpgBlack women have the highest rates of fibroids-noncancerous tumors of the uterus. It is estimated that 50 to 75 percent of black women have fibroids. Here’s what you should know…

By Annie Friedman

              “Black women have the highest rates of fibroids—noncancerous tumors of the uterus. It is estimated that 50 to 75 percent of black women have fibroids. They can be found on the surface of the uterus, within its walls, or in the uterine cavity. Women can have fibroids in one location or all three. Black women are also more likely to have severe pain, anemia, and larger and more numerous fibroids that women of other racial groups. Although individual family genetics may play a role, studies show that women of African descent who live in other countries do not appear to have as high an incidence of fibroids. To some, this suggests that diet or other environmental factors are at work in the development of fibroids in black women in America.”

              “Fibroid tumors may grow (as a result of the increased levels of estrogen), remain the same, or shrink during pregnancy, but most studies show that in the majority of cases they don’t significantly increase in size during pregnancy. However, a small percentage of tumors may more than double in size. Sometimes these fast growing tumors can outgrow their blood supply and being to degenerate, a problem called “red degeneration.” The degeneration causes severe pain and occasionally light vaginal bleeding, along with vomiting, nausea, and a low-grade fever. The pain, which occurs over the spot where the fibroid is situated, may radiate down the back and usually begins in the second trimester at around twenty weeks. The frequent pain also causes confusion in pregnancy—is it the fibroids or preterm labor?—so women who have fibroids find themselves at the doctor’s office more frequently,. But there is no need to worry that your fibroids will hurt or deform a baby.”

Risks: “Depending on their locations, fibroids can sometimes increase the risk of miscarriage during the first and second trimesters or increase the chance of preterm labor. The most serious complications occur when the placenta grows near or over the surface of a fibroid inside the uterus. In these cases, the growing baby can be deprived of sufficient nutrients and have a low birth weight, the membrane may rupture prematurely, or in some cases, fibroids can also obstruct the birth canal, complicating labor and delivery.”

              “If fibroids lead to preterm labor, your doctor will likely recommend bed rest. If severe bleeding occurs, the treatment may include hospitalization, monitoring of the baby’s condition, and, if needed, a blood transfusion. Surgery for removing fibroids is avoided during pregnancy, because it can lead to preterm delivery and excessive blood loss.”

              “Fibroids do not prevent you from delivering vaginally. However, your risk of having a cesarean delivery may also increase if your fibroids are in the lower part of the uterus, because there they can block the baby’s descent, or if you have several fibroids, which can prevent the uterus from contracting properly and progressing in labor.”

              Postpartum Care: “After delivery, the fibroids may trigger significant bleeding, making iron supplements or even a blood transfusion necessary postpartum. If your fibroids grew during pregnancy, they may shrink back to their prepregnancy size within a few months after delivery.”

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