HACKENSACK, N.J. – Up to 80 percent of women will have a fibroid by the time they're in their 50s.
A small percentage of fibroids, a non-cancerous tumor in the muscle of the uterus, develop in the cervix, often causing problems with fertility.
Doctors in New Jersey used an unusual technique to help keep one woman's "baby dreams" alive.
For years, MaryBeth Stancato's periods were unpredictable and unusually heavy. Until one night.
"I tried to take a shower, and unfortunately I lost so much blood I became unconscious," she said.
Stancato was rushed by ambulance to a hospital, where doctors found a fibroid on her cervix. Doctors suggested trying to shrink it with hormones or a total hysterectomy.
"At the time I was 36, we had three kids, but we had in our mind that we weren't finished with our family yet," Stancato said.
Dr. John DeMeritt, interventional radiology and attending physician at Hackensack University Medical Center, is an expert in vascular embolization closing off blood vessels that feed tumors.
In the past, uterine embolization hasn't worked on cervical fibroids, so DeMeritt and his team devised a new approach.
They inserted a catheter in Stancato's leg, and then worked to deliver tiny particles as close as possible to the fibroid.
"We tried to thread an even smaller catheter than is usually used directly into the artery that feeds the cervix," DeMeritt said.
MaryBeth was awake during the procedure and says she felt calm as she watched the process on a monitor.
Doctors used advanced imaging during the procedure to ensure the particles designed to block the blood flow were delivered to the right place.
They did a follow-up after three months.
"Surprisingly, the fibroid had shrunk by 92 percent," DeMeritt said.
Three months after that, Stancato got a pleasant surprise -- a pregnancy -- and a baby boy, Francesco.
"We were pregnant within six months of surgery. He is definitely our little miracle, right?" MaryBeth said.