Fibroids Are Very Common

Early results from a pioneering study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill indicate that small uterine fibroids are associated with an increased risk of miscarriage.
Fibroids are common
Fibroids, benign muscle tumors of the uterus, are estimated to affect more than one in five women of reproductive age. But little is known about the influence of these growths on pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriage, premature birth and fetal growth restriction.

"No studies have prospectively investigated these risks in a large cohort of women early in pregnancy where presence of fibroids was uniformly assessed using ultrasound imaging. This is the first large-scale prospective study to do that," says Dr Katherine Hartmann, the study's principal investigator. Hartmann also is assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology as well as epidemiology in UNC's schools of medicine and public health.

"Fibroids are very common, as are these potentially devastating pregnancy outcomes. But research evidence to inform clinical care is meager," she says.

Previous ultrasound studies of uterine fibroids were flawed because they used ultrasound databases including fibroids that doctors considered of concern, Hartmann says. Typically, these were fibroids of at least three centimeters. Others, often much smaller, were not uniformly noted.

"So the studies are flawed by inadequate assessment of the classification of who has fibroids and who does not," she says. "In our pilot study of 1,600 women, we discovered that the majority of those who have fibroids never have been told that they did."

Fibroids were diagnosed in 170 of the women. Pilot study results show that women with fibroids have a 55 percent increased risk of pregnancy loss, and smaller fibroids are significantly more associated with having a miscarriage than larger ones. Moreover, it appears that presence of fibroids is uniformly associated with miscarriage throughout early pregnancy.

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