Miscarriage. If you’re a woman with uterine fibroids and planning to conceive, this one scary word probably runs through your mind daily. For years, the medical community has linked these noncancerous uterine growths to an increased risk of pregnancy loss. But thanks to a groundbreaking study, new findings show fibroids don’t cause miscarriages—something we can all celebrate.1
The 10-year study led by Vanderbilt University Medical Center professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology Katherine Hartmann, MD, PhD, sought to further understand how fibroids influence pregnancy.1 To do so, Dr. Hartmann and her team followed over 5,500 women who were planning pregnancies or who were in the early weeks of pregnancy, dividing them into two groups: those who suffered with fibroids and those who did not. Fibroid presence, size, number, and location in the uterus were determined by ultrasound.
Results published in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed the risk of miscarrying—approximately 11%—was the same for women in both groups.1 These findings were surprising because, according to Dr. Hartmann in a Vanderbilt University press release, the initial goal of the study was to understand which types of fibroids put women at the highest risk of miscarriage.2
Why did previous research connect fibroids with miscarriage?
Hartmann went on to explain that earlier studies didn’t always verify fibroid status with ultrasound in all patients involved.2 What’s more, in previous studies, factors like ethnicity and age weren’t always considered. Increased age and African American descent are both risk factors for having fibroids.3 They are also factors that increase the risk of miscarrying.1,4 But that doesn’t necessarily mean that fibroids cause miscarriages. When other studies didn’t separate these factors, fibroids were incorrectly labeled as the culprit.
Although fibroids aren’t linked to miscarriages, they can be the cause of heavy periods, pelvic pain, and urinary symptoms, along with pregnancy complications like preterm birth, placental abruption, postpartum bleeding, and the need for a cesarean section.1
The results of this study not only help women let go of some of the stress surrounding fibroids but also may spare women from undergoing myomectomy—a major surgery done to remove fibroids. The researchers of the study concluded that myomectomy performed for the sake of reducing the risk of miscarriage deserves careful consideration.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Alicia Armeli is a Freelance Writer and Editor, 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 in her community. She is a paid consultant of Merit Medical.
- Hartmann, K. E., Velez Edwards, D. R., Savitz, D. A., et al. (2017). Prospective cohort study of uterine fibroids and miscarriage risk. Am J Epidemiol, Jun; 7: 1-9.
- Pasley, J. (2017, Jun 7). Vanderbilt-led study disputes link between uterine fibroids and miscarriage risk. Retrieved from https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2017/06/07/vanderbilt-led-study-disputes-link-between-uterine-fibroids-and-miscarriage-risk/
- Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2017, Feb 6). Uterine fibroids. Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/uterine-fibroids
- Mukherjee, S., Velez Edwards, D. R., Baird, D. D., et al. (2013). Risk of miscarriage among black women and white women in a US prospective cohort study.Am J Epidemiol,177(11): 1271–1278.