Is Your Uterus Preventing Pregnancy?
Several factors need to fall into place for a successful pregnancy. These include hormones, egg quality, sperm quality, overall health, and much more. Surprisingly, an abnormally shaped uterus can keep women from getting and staying pregnant. Of course, since the uterus is an internal organ, women would not know the expected size and shape until pregnancy or miscarriage. Only 7% of women have uterine anomalies, so the topic is not top of mind. Still, there are some symptoms and medical tests that can help confirm if this is indeed an issue.
Look for these possible signs.
There’s no way to tell if there is a uterine anomaly without the help of an OB/GYN or reproductive endocrinologist. Some cases may never show signs or symptoms at all. However, some women will experience symptoms that can indicate an underlying condition. Common signs include painful periods, pain during intercourse, and abdominal pain. Irregular periods, endometriosis, and repeated miscarriages are other significant signs. See the reproductive specialist for these symptoms, especially if pregnancy is on the cards.
Here’s what your doctor’s looking for
A healthy uterus is typically shaped like an inverted pear. During conception, the fertilized egg travels through the fallopian tube and implants in the largest part of the uterus. Over time, uterine anomalies can prevent the healthy growth of the fetus. Common shapes include:
- The bicornuate uterus, which is partially split at the top, is known as a heart-shaped uterus.
- Unicornuate uterus where one side develops, creating a horn-shaped uterus.
- With the septate uterus, the septum wall creates 2 separate uterine cavities.
- Fibroids, abnormal growths in the uterus, can create an irregular shape.
- Rare, congenital conditions like T-shaped (didelphic) uterus.
Different shapes can affect the pregnancy process in different ways. To determine and even treat uterine anomalies, the doctor will perform various tests.
HSG is a common first step
The reproductive medical team will first schedule a hysterosalpingography (HSG). This test is an x-ray to check the shape of the uterus. HSG tests can also check for blockages in the fallopian tubes. Next, the doctor will inject a dye into the uterus via the cervix. A special device inserted in the vagina will help the dye develop a shape on the x-ray monitor. The test will give a general shape and reveal any irregular growths like fibroids.
Ultrasound or MRI
Ultrasound is another helpful way to determine the shape of the uterus. Instead of a contact dye, the doctor will fill the uterus with a saline solution. An ultrasound device is then passed on the pelvic and abdomen areas will give an image of the uterus. In some cases, an MRI can provide more detail and a clearer picture of the uterus.
A hysteroscopy is one of the best methods to check the size and shape of the uterus. In a simple procedure, the doctor will pass a scope through the cervix. The scope has a high-powered camera that sends real-time images to the doctor. With hysteroscopy, the doctor can also treat minor conditions affecting uterine health.
Treating uterine anomalies
Based on the diagnosis, the doctor can suggest the appropriate treatment. Some cases, like a bicornuate uterus, may not need action. However, if the uterus is creating repeated miscarriages or infertility, surgery is the best option. The doctor can usually correct minor issues during a hysteroscopy. Sometimes, a separate minimally invasive procedure is scheduled to correct the anomaly or remove fibroids. Correcting the problem can significantly improve the chances of pregnancy.
Get back into shape
The shape of the uterus can determine if an embryo can safely implant and grow. Most women would not know of an abnormally shaped uterus until a checkup, test, or signs of infertility. Yet, there are some signs and symptoms that can indicate an issue. If these signs continue or there are difficulties getting pregnant, speak with an OB/GYN today.