What are polyps?

There are two types of polyps that can affect fertility: uterine polyps (also known as endometrial polyps) and cervical polyps.

Uterine polyps are masses or lesions of the uterine wall (endometrium).  These occur in about 10% of women. 

Cervical polyps are smooth, finger-shaped growths in the cervix or the passage between the vagina and uterus. Cervical polyps are usually benign but a very small percentage of them may be cancerous or precancerous.

Polyps are present in approximately 25% of women who experience abnormal vaginal bleeding.

Do polyps affect fertility?

Uterine polyps can affect fertility by altering the shape of the uterine cavity, and the lowering the chances of implantation of a fertilized egg. Uterine polyps occur in the endometrium, the tissue that lines the uterine walls and nourishes the fertilized egg, and many also affect fertility.

Polyps may even cause a miscarriage and increase the risk of miscarriage in women undergoing in vitro fertilization treatment

Causes of polyps

The cause of cervical polyps is unknown. Infection, long-term chronic inflammation of the cervix or a response to increases in estrogen levels have been identified as possible causes.

Uterine polyps have no definitive cause, but are likely caused by higher estrogen levels.

Symptoms of polyps

There are rarely any symptoms of polyps. Symptoms, though rare, can include abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods, after sexual intercourse.  Vaginal discharge of yellow or white mucus may also occur.

Treatment for polyps

  • Uterine polyps can be detected using an ultrasound, hysteroscopy (imaging inside the uterus) or X-ray view of the uterus.
  • Cervical polyps can be detected either with a vaginal sonogram or by a visual pelvic exam.
  • Polyps may be removed by minor surgical procedures.
  • Hormone therapy can help polyps shrink, but hormone treatments can also cause temporary infertility.