How can I tell if my menstrual bleeding is abnormally heavy?
Most periods last about five to seven days, and during that time, most women pass about an ounce of blood. Heavy periods include those that last longer than seven days and those that involve a significant amount of blood loss. In practical terms, women with a heavy flow usually must change their pads every 90 minutes or so, even during sleeping hours. Clots are also often passed, and many women with heavy periods experience significant fatigue and anemia.
What causes heavy periods?
Chronic heavy periods of menorrhagia occur most often as a woman approaches menopause and hormonal fluctuations cause aberrations in her menstrual flow. But they can also be caused by:
- Blood thinners
- IUD complications
- Underlying diseases
There are a number of reasons you may be experiencing heavy periods, and keeping track of your flow and any related symptoms is important information to let Dr. Hill know.
How is abnormal bleeding treated?
Before any treatment is recommended, a thorough exam, including a pelvic exam, diagnostic imaging, and other assessments are performed to determine the best approach.Treatment for abnormal bleeding may include:
- Birth control pills
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- Iron supplements
- Dilation and curettage
- Laser therapy
- Noninvasive surgery
Some instances of abnormal bleeding are caused by fibroids.
What are fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are masses of fibrous muscle tissue that develop and grow in the uterus. Although most fibroids are not cancerous, they can grow to become quite large – sometimes as large as a melon. The specific underlying cause of fibroids has not been determined, but researchers do know hormonal fluctuations play a role, and fibroids tend to shrink and stop forming once a woman enters menopause and her periods stop. Uterine fibroids are more likely to occur in women with a family history of fibroids, as well as women in their 30s and 40s, those who are obese and those who consume a lot of red meat.
What symptoms do fibroids cause?
Usually, very small fibroids cause no symptoms. Larger fibroids can cause symptoms, including:
- Irregular or abnormal bleeding
- Painful periods, often with significant cramping and backache
- Painful intercourse
- Increased urge to urinate
Larger fibroids are also known to cause pelvic pain or pressure, in addition to bleeding or spotting between periods.
How are fibroids treated?
Fibroid treatment depends on several factors, including the size and whether they’re causing symptoms. Usually, when fibroids are small and not causing symptoms, no treatment is necessary beyond monitoring. Fibroids that do cause symptoms can be treated using one of several methods:
- Surgical removal, usually using minimally-invasive methods that rely on very small incisions (laparoscopic surgery)
- Hormone therapy to shrink the fibroids
- Uterine artery embolization to cut off the flow of blood to the fibroids, essentially “starving” them so they shrink
For diagnosis and treatment for abnormal bleeding, call Regina Hill, MD today.