The term bicornuate uterus refers to a type of uterine malformation, wherein the organ has a depression at its top, thereby forming two horns. Here is a brief overview about the condition.
Uterine malformations are mostly congenital, and are estimated to affect around 7% of the female population. In normal cases, a uterus is formed by the fusion of two small ducts (Mullerian ducts), during the embryonic stage. However, in some cases, these ducts fail to fuse together in the proper manner, thereby causing uterine malformations. There are different types of uterine malformations, and they include double uterus, unicornuate uterus, bicornuate uterus, septated uterus, etc.
What is a Bicornuate Uterus?
As mentioned above, most of the uterine malformations are caused by the improper fusion of the Mullerian ducts during the embryonic stage. In case of a bicornuate uterus, the bottom portions of both the tubes fuse together, but the top parts remain separate. This results in a uterus with two cavities that join at the base only, thereby forming two horns at the top. It can be described as a normal uterus with a deep depression on the top part. So, a bicornuate uterus is also called heart-shaped uterus, due to its shape.
A bicornuate uterus may occur in different degrees, according to the extent of the fusion of the Mullerian ducts. There is no standard definitions or categorizations for the same; but, the degree of malformation in this case, is a very important factor, as far as pregnancy and childbirth are concerned. In most cases, the affected women may not experience any symptom; but, some of them may have abdominal pain, cramps, heavy or irregular menstrual periods, painful ovulation, etc. Studies show that around 1% of the female population have this condition, and severe malformation may result in complications.
Bicornuate Uterus Complications
As in case of other types of uterine malformations, the possible complications of a bicornuate uterus are linked with pregnancy and childbirth. While in moderate degrees, a bicornuate uterus may not affect pregnancy, and may even go unnoticed; a severe malformation may cause recurrent loss of pregnancy or preterm birth. In such cases, the fetus may grow inside any of the two chambers, which cannot expand, as a normal uterus can do. This results in miscarriage.
In some cases, the fetus attaches to the largest part of the uterus, where it grows to the full term. Mostly, the fetuses are found in abnormal positions, resulting in complications, like premature births. It has also been observed that the growth of fetus in a bicornuate uterus is often retarded, and so they have a low birth weight, as compared to normal babies. Birth defects are also not uncommon. Studies show that the fetal survival rate in women with this condition is around 65%. However, infertility is not associated with bicornuate uterus.
While most cases are not detected till conception, treatment for bicornuate uterus is decided according to individual conditions. In some cases, reconstructive laparoscopic surgery is suggested, but, it is not preferred by some health experts. If a woman is having such a bicornuate uterus, pregnancy can be risky; and so, doctors may sometimes opt for cervical cerclage, which is a stitch placed in the cervix to prevent its premature dilation, which can cause preterm birth or loss of pregnancy. So, women with bicornuate uterus have to be extra cautious during pregnancy, and follow the instructions of the health care provider, to avoid serious complications.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.