A widespread belief is that women no longer need to use birth control after having uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). Yet women wishing to conceive after UFE are able to have full-term pregnancies and give birth to healthy babies. In one particular study, 1 researchers looked at 44 women 40 years or younger that had UFE and indicated a desire for future childbearing. Out of the group, 48 percent of the women had successful pregnancies with term delivery of healthy babies.
“A common misconception is that women cannot become pregnant after UFE,” said Dr. Olga Brook MD, Vascular & Interventional Radiology and Abdominal Imaging Radiologist, Associate Director of CT Services, and Director of the International Visiting Observership Program in Interventional Radiology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Assistant Professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass. “Studies show that women can become pregnant and can carry a pregnancy to term after UFE.”
UFE works by cutting off blood flow to the fibroids, causing these noncancerous uterine tumors to shrink. Following the procedure, symptoms like heavy menstrual bleeding are reduced significantly. Because of this, the majority of UFE patients experience lighter periods, and in some cases, menstruation may stop all together. But this doesn’t automatically mean a woman can’t get pregnant.
According to Dr. Brook, the disappearance of menstruation after UFE most frequently happens because the lining of the uterus temporarily becomes very thin. “In these cases, ovarian function is preserved,” she clarified. “Periods usually will return after a few months. And if this is the cause, women can certainly get pregnant.”
On the other hand, Dr. Brook added, 10 percent of women whose periods stop after UFE do so because of an unusual disruption in blood flow to the ovaries1 resulting in an early onset of menopause. These cases are uncommon and almost exclusively occur in women over the age of 45 years. When this occurs, pregnancy is no longer possible.
Pregnancy can happen after UFE, but it becomes a high-risk pregnancy, Dr. Brook continued. Documented complications after UFE include early pregnancy loss, abnormal placentation, and preterm delivery. Although associated with similar risks, myomectomy—the surgical removal of fibroids—is currently considered the gold standard of fibroid treatment for women wishing to conceive.
For women not wanting to become pregnant after UFE, Dr. Brook advised not counting on the procedure as a form of birth control. “UFE is a great minimally invasive way to treat fibroids. However, it will not prevent pregnancy,” she cautioned. “If pregnancy isn’t desired, it’s important to use the contraception method of your choice.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Alicia Armeli is a Health Freelance Writer and Photographer, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, and Certified Holistic Life Coach. She has master’s degrees in English Education and Nutrition. Through her writing, she empowers readers to live optimally by building awareness surrounding issues that impact health and wellbeing. In addition to writing, she enjoys singing, traveling abroad and volunteering within her community.
ABOUT THE DOCTOR Olga Brook MD is a Vascular & Interventional Radiology and Abdominal Imaging Radiologist, Associate Director of CT Services, Associate Program Director of the Vascular and Interventional Radiology Fellowship, and Director of the International Visiting Observership Program in Interventional Radiology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Assistant Professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass. In addition to her work in women’s health imaging and interventions, she strives to improve patient care, safety, and quality assurance in other areas of Diagnostic Radiology.
1.McLucas, B., Voorhees Iii, W. D., & Elliott, S. (2015). Fertility after uterine artery embolization: a review. Minimally Invasive Therapy & Allied Technologies, 2: 1-7.