Help for Heavy Periods

Heavy periods can be a misery, cause pain and affect daily life but no woman just has to ‘put up with it’ – there are solutions.

Women are often conditioned to think that heavy blood flow and pain are just part of being a woman, but there is usually an underlying medical reason for problem periods. The most common reasons for heavy and painful periods are:

  • Endometriosis (growth of uterine lining in other areas of the body, for instance, the ovaries and fallopian tubes)
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Uterine fibroids (non-cancerous tumours)
  • Adenomyosis
  • Polyps
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome and other hormonal disorders
  • Pelvic infections or STI’s
  • Contraceptive side-effects
  • Undiagnosed medical conditions such as neuropathic pain disorders, thyroid disorders, blood clotting disorders, or more rarely, uterine cancer

Diagnostic Tests

When periods begin interfering with a woman’s activities, there are diagnostic tests that can determine the cause so that the correct treatment can be given.

Pelvic Examination and Swabs – A pelvic examination can show any abnormal lumps or signs of infection.

Pelvic Ultrasound – A pelvic ultrasound will produce a picture of your reproductive organs to assist in the diagnosis.

Hysteroscopy – A hysteroscope is a fibre optic telescope that is placed into the uterus via the vagina to allow the doctor to see inside the uterine cavity.

Laparoscopy – A laparoscopy is a small lighted telescope that can transmit images to a television screen. It is inserted through a tiny incision in the abdomen and is helpful for diagnosing and treating conditions like endometriosis and fibroids. If these are identified, the surgeon can pass small surgical tools in through another incision and use the laparoscope to help guide them to the correct place. He can then remove the fibroids or affected tissue to ease pelvic pain and even help restore fertility.

Treatments

Treatments depend on the cause, but include antibiotics and anti-fungals for infection, laparoscopic surgery to remove growths or tissue, medication to reduce blood flow (tranexamic acid tablets that can reduce blood flow by half, anti-inflammatory painkillers that can jointly relieve pain and reduce blood flow or the contraceptive pill, which can thin the lining of the uterine and so make periods lighter and more manageable).

Other contraceptives such as the injection or implant can reduce heavy periods and if the woman also wishes to update her method of contraception, this could be offered as a treatment.

Uterine ablation is another type of surgery that can stop heavy and painful periods. This is done by using microwave or extreme cold (cryotherapy) to burn off the uterine lining. This will correct the problem but will usually make it impossible for a woman to conceive afterwards so it should not be used as a treatment option for women who still wish to have children.

Hysterectomy (the surgical removal of the uterus) is a last resort for women whose heavy and painful periods have taken over their lives and who know they have completed their family. It is also a line of defence against uterine cancer.

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