Uterine polyps, a cause of infertility in women

Uterine polyps are one of the complications women experience, and it can lead to barrenness. Doctors say women can have one or many uterine polyps; they are enclosed within the uterus, although irregularly, and slide down through the opening of the uterus (cervix) into the vagina.

Dr Iba Mayele, an obstetrician gynaecologist at Clinic Galien, Kimironko, says that uterine polyps are usually non-cancerous growths attached to the inner wall of the uterus. They most commonly occur in women who are going through or have completed menopause, although younger women can get them as well.

He says that symptoms may include irregular menstrual bleeding, for example; unpredictable period of variable length and heaviness in bleeding between menstrual periods, vaginal bleeding after menopause, bleeding between menstrual periods, and excessively heavy menstrual periods.

Mayele says that one of the complications of uterine polyps might be associated with infertility.

He says that there is no sure way to prevent uterine polyps. The risk factors; mainly obesity, high blood pressure and taking tamoxifen increase the chance of developing polyps.

Dr Kenneth Ruzindana, a consultant at University Teaching Hospital Kigali (CHUK), says that uterine polyps are small soft growths inside the uterus, or the womb. They come from the tissue that lines the uterus, which is called the endometrium. Their size varies, they can be as small as a seed or as big as a golf ball. The patient can have one polyp or many at once. For many women, it doesn’t cause symptoms.

Mayele says that they tend to grow as a response to the distribution of estrogen (female sex hormone) in the body, and chronic inflammation on the uterus, vagina or cervix.

Ruzindana says that if doctors suspect one to have uterine polyps, there are some diagnosis methods that they use, the most common ones being; transvaginal ultra sound. Here, a long slender device is placed in the vagina to create an image of the uterus, including its interior. The doctor may see a polyp that’s clearly present. Another method is called hysteroscopy. The doctor inserts a thin, flexible, lighted telescope known as a hysteroscopy through the vagina and cervix into the uterus to examine the inside of the uterus.

Many times, uterine polyps have symptoms; the most common sign is bleeding, especially when you can’t predict the timing. Endometrial biopsy is another method; a doctor uses a suction catheter inside the uterus to collect a specimen for lab testing, he adds.

Ruzindana notes that each month, estrogen levels in women rise and fall directly in the lining of the uterus to thicken and then shade during periods. So, it is an over growth of the lining that makes a polyp. Also, age plays a role in the progress of uterine polyps—common in one’s 40s or 50s.

He also explains that most uterine polyps are not cancerous, but a small percentage could turn malignant later on. Chances are higher if a woman has gone through menopause. The symptoms of polyps are similar to those of uterine cancer. If a woman has any signs, it is important to follow up with a doctor to know what is going on.

Ruzindana says that for treatment, sometimes doctors give hormonal medication known as hormone agonist.