Uterine polyps, also called endometrial polyps, are small soft growths inside of a woman’s uterus. Kind of like a skin tag, uterine polyps are an overgrowth of tissue from the endometrium or lining, of the uterus. They vary in size with some as small as a chia seed and others as large as golf balls. According to the NIH, approximately 24% of women have uterine polyps although the closer you are to menopause your odds increase.
Symptoms of Uterine Polyps
Your symptoms may not be as noticeable if you have smaller polyps, however, as the polyps grow you may experience symptoms. Many women have no idea they have polyps until they seek treatment for symptoms such as:
- Unpredictable or irregular menstrual periods
- Bleeding and spotting between your periods
- Unusually heavy periods (Defined as needing to change your tampon or pad every two hours and/or passing clots larger than a quarter.)
What Causes Uterine Polyps
Medical science has yet to uncover the exact cause of uterine polyps, but doctors believe estrogen plays a role. As you get closer to menopause, your hormone levels change frequently. This imbalance causes a swing in your estrogen levels. Estrogen is the main hormone that causes your uterine lining (endometrium) to thicken each month. An imbalance may cause an overgrowth of the endometrium, creating uterine polyps.
Risk of Miscarriage and Effect on Fertility with Uterine Polyps
Miscarriage is a heartbreaking time for anyone, especially those who suffer with infertility. The presence of polyps in the lining of the uterus may raise your risk for miscarriage. Polyps are an abnormality and create an inflammatory response in the body, particularly the uterus. Because polyps present with irregular periods and abnormal bleeding, your lining could begin to shed or bleed at the time your embryo is ready to implant. The inflammation also creates an inhospitable environment for the embryo and causes miscarriage.
Doctors diagnose uterine polyps in roughly 25% of all women who experience unexplained infertility. In addition to recurrent miscarriages it is believed uterine polyps prevent fertilization by impeding the sperm and egg from coming together. Of course any risk of uterine polyp-related infertility or miscarriage depends on the size and number of polyps in the uterus.
How Doctors Diagnose and Treat Uterine Polyps
When you schedule and appointment with your physician because you suspect infertility your doctor will ask about your menstrual cycles. If you mention irregular periods and spotting or bleeding between periods, along with difficulty becoming pregnant your physician will perform a gynecological exam and additional tests. Tests may include the following:
- Transvaginal Ultrasound: Your doctor inserts an ultrasound transducer into your vagina to study your cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus as well as the entire pelvic area. The ultrasound shows irregularities in these organs and vicinity. Uterine polyps show up on a transvaginal ultrasound.
- Sonohysterography: If your doctor suspects uterine abnormalities, they follow up with a sonohysterography. The procedure is also sometimes referred to as a saline infusion sonography. Your doctor inserts a thin tube directly into the uterus and introduces a sterile saline solution to help your uterus expand. This gives your doctor a clearer view of the inside of your uterus and any growths that may be there.
- Hysteroscopy: Physicians often use a hysteroscopy to both diagnose and sometimes treat uterine polyps. Your doctor inserts a long, thin telescopic device through your vagina and cervix directly into your uterus. Much like an endoscopy or colonoscopy the telescope lets you doctor see directly into your uterus. Depending on your diagnosis your physician may use the hysteroscope to aid in surgical removal of the polyps.
- Endometrial Biopsy: For this procedure your doctor takes a small sample of the tissue inside of your uterus. The pathology lab examines the tissue for abnormalities.
- Curettage or D&C: Your doctor performs a D&C in the operating room, and you are under anesthesia. The procedure removes the tissue and polyps from your uterine wall. The lab checks the tissue for the presence of cancer cells. Uterine polyps are typically benign, but there is a rare risk of cancer.
Removal of your polyps means your chances for pregnancy improve greatly. You can attempt natural conception, intrauterine insemination or IVF, according to your doctor’s diagnosis and recommendation. Uterine polyps can return, so you may undergo treatment more than once. On the rare occasion your polyps are cancerous your doctor may recommend a hysterectomy. In that case pregnancy via a gestational carrier is possible.
If you are experiencing difficulty conceiving and have any of the symptoms of uterine polyps contact LA IVF. It is possible to remove your polyps and restore your fertility in most cases. Our expert surgeons can easily remove the polyps and together we’ll find your right path to growing your family.