After Having 78 Uterine Fibroids Removed at Mount Sinai, a Patient Fulfills Her Dream of Becoming a Mom

Shauna McDonald, 41, started to suffer from heavy and painful periods when she was at high school; she was diagnosed with uterine fibroids, noncancerous growths on or in the uterus. At college, she went on birth control to help control her symptoms, but with limited success.

“I still continued with having heavy bleeding into my 20s. I suffered with it, and I got a second opinion from my doctor, and that’s when I was also diagnosed with endometriosis at 27,” Shauna told in an article about her health journey. “I was 30, going on 31, when I had the first surgery for my fibroids.”

Both uterine fibroids and endometriosis can cause fertility issues. During her 30s, Shauna underwent a series of surgeries to remove both fibroids and the cysts caused by endometriosis, and each time the heavy periods would return within months. She tried to conceive during the times when symptoms were in remission and went through two unsuccessful rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF).

“That takes a toll on your psyche, on your relationships,” Shauna says. “I didn’t really give up, but I was just tired and over it. I was just like, ‘Maybe I’m not supposed to be a mom,’ even though deep down I knew I’m supposed to be a mother.”

In 2020, she turned to Charles Ascher-Walsh, MD, Director of the Fibroid Center at The Mount Sinai Hospital.  Dr. Ascher-Walsh is internationally recognized for his research and expertise in the area of fibroids.

Shauna’s fibroids affected the cavity of her uterus, making it more difficult for her to get pregnant and increasing her risk of pre-term delivery. “She had a more severe case. The first fibroids were diagnosed when she was very young, which is very uncommon,” Dr. Ascher-Walsh says “She had been trying to get pregnant for years and almost got to the point of giving up.”

By 2020, Shauna’s period had started and never stopped. “I bled on day 10, on day 14 to the point where I said, ‘I need to call my doctor and tell him that I’m still bleeding,’” she said. “I had surgery in October 2020, and he removed 78 fibroids. That was the most that was ever removed from me, and my uterus was the size of a 16-week pregnancy. I was stunned.”

Dr. Ascher-Walsh encouraged her to try getting pregnant again. “He said, 'You have to heal from this surgery, and you have three months to get pregnant because if you do not, the fibroids are going to come back,” she recalled. “I did my IVF, and on the first round I got pregnant. It was truly a blessing.”

Shauna’s pregnancy was overseen by Jane Owen, DO, Assistant Professor in Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Her first trimester went smoothly, but in consideration of her medical history and multiple interventions for fibroids, Dr. Owen watched her closely with regular sonograms. During her second trimester, a sonogram revealed she had developed placenta accreta. This is a very serious condition where the placenta grows too deeply into the uterine wall and passes through it, potentially impacting other organs, such as the bladder.  In these cases, the patient will need to undergo a Caesarean section and a hysterectomy after the baby has been delivered.

“It’s a very dangerous pregnancy because as she goes into labor, she could hemorrhage,” Dr. Owen explains.  “We watched her very closely because we knew that this was going to be a difficult C-section. We reached out to Maternal Fetal Medicine, GYN Oncology, the OR team and the Mount Sinai Hospital blood bank just in case we ended up in an emergency situation.”

On March 29, 2022, Shauna safely underwent a caesarean section followed by a hysterectomy. 

“The baby’s fine. The risk is on the mother,” she said. “I believe I was 37 weeks and four days. I didn’t want to deliver him earlier than that because I didn’t want him to have to be in the NICU.”

Both Shauna and her son, Nobel, are doing well. Shauna feels her experiences have made her a stronger person.

“I actually manifested this baby,” she said. “I’m very resilient. And when I want something, I’m going to do it. This was much harder than anything else in life, because fertility is something you cannot control.”