A recent web-based survey completed early this year found that women who suffer from abnormally heavy periods have strong opinions about what they want, treatment-wise.
The survey examined the responses of 400 women between the ages of 35 and 49 who self-identified as having heavy periods, known as menorrhagia in the medical community. Menorrhagia is defined as periods that are so heavy and debilitating that they get in the way of woman’s daily activities. Women suffering from menorrhagia can lose as much as 10 to 25 times more blood during their periods than the 60 to 260 milliliters associated with normal menstruation.
In addition to abnormally heavy bleeding, 75 percent of the women surveyed reported other symptoms, such as mood changes, cramps, pain, fatigue, bloating or tenderness. A third of the women surveyed reported becoming anemic during their periods. Some women even reported that they dressed differently or avoided buying certain articles of clothing because they would not be able to wear them during their periods.
The women who answered the survey frequently responded that their doctors recommended hormone therapy with birth control pills or the surgical option of D&C (dilation and curettage), which breaks up and removes the overgrown lining of the uterus often responsible for heavy periods. Some doctors recommended hysterectomy, as well.
Responses to the survey indicated that women are apprehensive about many of the current treatments. Birth control pills prevent women from conceiving and can have other side effects, including breast tenderness, increased risk of blood clotting, and depression; on the other hand, surgical options have their own drawbacks: D&C can last only a short while and may require repeat treatments if menorrhagia begins again, while hysterectomy – the removal of the uterus, and often also the cervix – can cause a host of hormonal and physical symptoms, such as menopause-like hot and cold spells, mood swings, and sexual difficulties.
Women who answered the survey did express interest in newer surgical alternatives, such as a procedure known as endometrial ablation. Endometrial ablation is a term that refers to a range of minimally invasive procedures whose goal is to remove the lining of the uterus – known to doctors as the endometrium – in order to stop the heavy periods it can cause when overgrown.
There are several innovative second-generation endometrial ablation procedures available to women today; most of the available procedures take about 30 minutes and are performed on an outpatient basis. Generally, women can return to normal activity more or less immediately, though they may experience cramping and mild abdominal pain for a couple of days, as well as spotting or tissue loss as the body rids itself of the tissue destroyed by the treatment.
Endometrial ablation offers a potentially preferable treatment option to women who suffer from menorrhagia, because it preserves the uterus without the introduction of potentially problematic hormone treatments, and the recovery time is far shorter than that of hysterectomy.
Read more about endometrial ablation on Uterus1.