If your hot water bottle is your best friend when period time comes around and you are finding that your period is abnormally heavy, don’t be alarmed. Heavy periods are common and effect around one in five Australian women. But they can be overwhelming, particularly if there is pain involved. If you do suffer from heavy menstrual bleeding, the good news is that there are a range of treatment options that can help reduce symptoms and add to your quality of life. You don’t have to suffer in silence!
In many cases, women who have heavy periods have a condition where abnormalities are found in the uterus (in the womb itself) or an imbalance in the hormones (estrogen and progesterone) that control a woman’s period. The most common physical conditions affecting the uterus that can be alleviated or reduce symptoms only involve minor surgery and include:
- Fibroids – these are abnormal growths that form in the muscle of the uterus and are very common.
- Endometrial polyps – these are growths of the lining of the uterus and may also occur at the cervix.
- Adenomyosis – this is a condition where where the endometrial glands grow into the muscle of the uterus.
- Endometrial hyperplasia – this is a condition where women develop an abnormally thick lining of the inside surface of their uterus.
Heavy periods can also be caused by factors such as blood clotting disorders, intrauterine devices such as copper devices, thyroid disorders and kidney disorders. These can be diagnosed by your GP or via consultations with specialists.
Treatment will depend on a patient’s medical history and the reasons behind their heavy menstrual bleeding. Medication is typically the first course of action and include tranexamic acid, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), a hormone-releasing intrauterine device (IUD), the contraceptive pill, the progestogen-only pill (POP or mini-pill) and Danazol.
Cancers, especially endometrial cancers, also need to be considered. Your GP will do an internal examination and often a cervical screening (pap) test. Blood tests are also usually ordered and an ultrasound of your pelvis done to look for things such as fibroids or ovarian cysts.
Other procedures include doing a hysteroscopy. This procedure involves looking inside the uterus and removing things such as polyps or a curettage, which requires sampling the lining of the uterus to provide some tissue to be analysed by the pathologists to exclude pathology in the lining of the uterus. This is also known as a dilation and curettage (D&C). Sometimes, particularly if there is pelvic pain or concerns about the ovaries, a laparoscopy may be recommended. This involves inserted a telescope in through the navel under a general anaesthetic.
The most important thing to remember is that if you have any concerns about your health – including experiencing heavy or inconsistent periods – your GP can help. I am also happy to talk to you about these matters. Call (07) 3353 3100 to book an appointment today.