What You Should Know If You Have A Heart-Shaped Uterus
The normal shape of the uterus, or womb, is somewhat like that of an inverted pear, although abnormalities do exist, and a heart-shaped uterus is but one example. Having a heart-shaped uterus is not a rarity, but neither is it terribly common. Approximately 1 in every 10 women have a uterus that has an abnormal shape in some sense of the word, though in many of those cases the abnormality does not present a problem with respect to fertility, conception, or the birth of the baby.
Slight Variations - In a uterus having the normal, pear-like shape, the egg is delivered by the fallopian tube at the top of the uterus. The bottom of the uterus, the narrower part, is connected to the vagina by way of the cervix. In most women, the top part of the uterus is tilted somewhat forward. In a small percentage of women however, the uterus may be tilted slightly backwards, and in a few the uterus can be oriented more or less vertically. The tilt does not appear to have much effect on fertility, pregnancy, or childbirth. It is a deformity in the shape of the uterus that potentially can cause a problem.
Formed In the Embryo and Fetus - Women who have a heart-shaped uterus have it at birth, as it is formed during the development of the fetus. The heart shape is caused by an abnormal development of the ducts in the embryo which eventually become the fallopian tubes and the ovaries. When that occurs, the top part of the uterus tends to take on an appearance of having two chambers, while the bottom part of the uterus develops into a normal shape. These two chambers, sometimes referred to as horns, are what gives the uterus its distinctive heart-like shape, giving rise to the term - bicornuate uterus.
This heart-like shape of a bicornuate uterus is not exactly the same shape as a Valentine’s heart. The geometry of most of the organs in our body is seldom cleanly defined. In some women having a bicornuate uterus, the two horns may be barely noticeable, and to call the uterus heart-shaped requires a bit of a stretch of the imagination. In others, the two horns can be very pronounced, and in extreme cases, two distinct chambers in the uterus have been created.
Problems Associated With The Deformity – The problems a woman may experience will be somewhat dependent upon the degree to which the uterus is deformed. Some women will have difficulty in conceiving, although this seldom appears to be the case. Others may have a pregnancy that does not quite go to full term, in other words, a premature birth will occur. Still others may suffer one or more miscarriages. In fact, the risk of miscarriage among those having a bicornuate uterus is 60% above the norm. Since the shape of the uterus initially cramps the space the fetus develops in, a significantly higher than normal percentage of babies born are born breech, which is to say, they enter the world feet first. It's estimated that half again as many babies are born breech in mothers who have a heart-shaped uterus, than is the case with those having a normal uterus. A breech delivery can often result in complications not encountered in a normal, head-first delivery. In short, a woman having a bicornuate uterus will probably not have a problem in conceiving, and may have a normal pregnancy initially, but could experience problems during the final stages, as well as during delivery. These numbers of course depend upon the extent of the abnormality. A woman who has a uterus that is barely heart-shaped, or nearly normal in shape, will probably not experience problems any more often than a woman having a normal uterus will.
The percentage of women who have a bicornuate uterus is not known exactly, but it is thought to be somewhat less than one percent. Many women with this condition do not become aware of it until undergoing an initial ultrasound. Some never become aware of the condition, since most instances of this type of deformity are asymptotic, although there have been instances where women have experienced abdominal pain or irregular or heavy menstrual periods.
Dealing With The Deformity When Pregnant - A woman who has an abnormally shaped uterus will understandably be somewhat anxious throughout the course of her pregnancy. This is quite understandable, and to tell her that she should keep calm and collected may sound a bit silly, but this is precisely what she needs to do. She should make certain that she keeps all of her scheduled clinical appointments, and tells her obstetrician or her midwife what she is experiencing and how she is feeling, and taking any advice that may be given to her. It's even more important that she watch her diet and get plenty of exercise. The negative effects of a less than healthy lifestyle on the pregnancy can be magnified in those cases where a woman is carrying a baby in a malformed uterus. Above all, she should be prepared for the possibility of a premature birth.