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Did you know that about one in every five women suffers from heavy periods and irregular bleeding? Whether due to feeling uncomfortable talking about it or simply not recognizing that there’s a problem, many women suffer needlessly through painful, heavy periods when there are options for relief. Your doctor is your best resource for helping you understand what’s normal when it comes to your periods, so if you’re in doubt, you may want to consider asking him or her the following questions:.
“Are my periods normal?”
Chances are the only period you’re really familiar with is your own, which can make assessing whether your period is actually abnormally heavy quite difficult. In contrast, your doctor has seen hundreds or thousands of women including the full range of menstrual cycles. Your doctor will know what to look and ask for to determine if you really do have a problem with your periods and begin finding out the cause.
Be prepared to describe to your doctor how long your period typically lasts, how many days apart each period is, the flow pattern (the days on which it’s heaviest), your physical and emotional symptoms, whether you’ve noticed blood clots, and whether there’s spotting before or afterwards. Additionally, your doctor will probably do a physical exam and may require tests, including a Pap test, an ultrasound, or a blood test.
“What are the causes of heavy periods?”
Heavy periods, known as menorrhagia, are a very common problem, but there are a number of different reasons they might be happening to you.
- Hormonal imbalances are most common in those who recently started getting their periods, and in those approaching menopause, but an imbalance of hormones like estrogen and progesterone may cause abnormally heavy periods
- Fibroids are noncancerous tumors that typically develop in the uterus and often result in pain, heavy periods, and reduced fertility
- Ovulatory problems can also lead to abnormally heavy periods
- Adenomyosis is a condition in which endometrial tissue that normally lines the uterus moves into the outer walls of the uterus, which often causes heavy bleeding and menstrual pain
- IUDs, short for intrauterine devices, are a non-hormonal birth control method that stay lodged in the uterus. In some cases, they can cause heavy periods. If this happens to you, you’ll probably discuss choosing an alternative method of birth control with your doctor.
- Other medical issues can cause or contribute to heavy periods, including pelvic inflammatory disease, certain types of reproductive organ cancers, endometriosis, kidney disease, thyroid problems, or inherited disorders that affect blood clotting, platelets, or bleeding.
“What are the symptoms of heavy periods?”
As you may know, heavy periods may affect women in a variety of ways, from the inconvenient, to the downright painful.
- Menstrual pain – women with heavy periods are more likely to experience pain during menstruation than those who do not have heavy periods, including headaches, severe cramps, and nausea. The pain can become quite severe and debilitating.
- Intense menstrual bleeding – most periods have their heavy and light days, but if you’re suffering from menorrhagia, your heavy days can be hard to control. You may find yourself going through tampons nearly every hour and having to wake up at night to avoid spillage.
- Longer menstrual phase – one of the most common signs of a heavy period is bleeding that regularly lasts for a week or longer. More than 7 days might mean menorrhagia.
- Disturbed sleep – some women are forced to change their sanitary protection (pad, tampon, etc.) during the middle of the night if the flow is such that it soaks through a pad or tampon.
- Reduced activity – due to the discomfort, many women with heavy periods have trouble going to work and completing their daily activities while menstruating. If your period is interfering with your life, it might be time to see a doctor.
- Fatigue and shortness of breath, as well as other symptoms of anemia are common, as those with heavy periods are losing more blood than they should.
“Are there any treatment options?”
Treatment can differ depending on the cause of the heavy bleeding, but some of the more popular options include anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, hormone treatments, iron supplements, and tranexamic acid (a drug that promotes blood clotting). Placing you on the birth control pill can regulate menstrual cycles and reduce period heaviness, so if you’re looking to avoid conception, it’s a common option.
If the previous options are unsuccessful, doctors may recommend a surgical procedure, such as a dilation and curettage, a hysteroscopy, or endometrial ablation or resection to remove part of the uterine lining.
“Should I consider endometrial ablation?”
Endometrial ablation is a quick procedure that a doctor can perform to help lighten or stop heavy menstrual bleeding, and it’s becoming quite common. Whereas other surgical options like a hysterectomy are highly invasive and may require a stay at the hospital, endometrial ablation involves much less baggage: it doesn’t require an incision or general anesthesia, it’s not generally painful, and can be completed in 5 minutes by your doctor. Endometrial ablation isn’t right for everybody, but if you’re suffering from heavy periods and want relief, you should ask your doctor about the procedure.
For more information and support on heavy periods, including a quiz to find out if you might have them yourself, the ChangeTheCycle blog is a great resource. Tap the button below to learn more!
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