If you have heavy periods, you may feel overwhelmed by the condition. Menorrhagia — the medical term for heavy periods — can leave you feeling tied to your body’s needs. It’s common for women with heavy periods to need to change their pads or tampons as often as every hour.
It’s not an uncommon problem; as many as 70% of Caucasian women and 80% of African-American women have fibroids in their uterus, which can often cause heavy bleeding. These fibroids may range from the size of a sunflower seed to a cantaloupe. Darin L. Weyhrich, MD, explains more about the link between fibroids and heavy menstrual bleeding.
Fibroids are growths in the muscles of the uterus. They may sound concerning, but they’re almost always noncancerous. In general, menstrual bleeding should end within about seven days, but with fibroids, you may bleed for 8-9 days.
However, even benign fibroids can cause significant disruption to your life. The common symptoms of fibroids include the following:
Some fibroids may grow on the uterine wall or attach like a stalk. Whether your fibroids need treatment will depend greatly on the pelvic exam results and other tests.
If Dr. Weyhrich discovers a small uterine fibroid during a pelvic exam, he recommends a wait-and-see approach, monitoring it regularly.
However, he may suggest further testing if you also have heavy menstrual bleeding or pain. A blood test determines whether the heavy bleeding has caused anemia, which accounts for symptoms like extreme, unexplained fatigue.
It may be an emergency if your heavy periods cause sharp abdominal pain or persistent pelvic pain.
Uterine fibroids often cause heavy menstrual periods because they:
The size and location of your fibroids influence your symptoms.
Additionally, fibroids increase the level of prostaglandins your body produces. Prostaglandins are hormones that help your uterus contract and expel its lining during your menstrual period, causing the familiar menstrual cramps you get each month. However, fibroids stimulate a flood of prostaglandins, exacerbating your cramps, pain, and other symptoms.
Small fibroids don’t need much treatment, but you can manage your symptoms with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®).
If Dr. Weyhrich determines you have anemia, you may benefit from taking iron supplements.
Small fibroids usually go away on their own over time, but larger fibroids may require surgical intervention. Here are some of the procedures Dr. Weyhrich may perform to treat larger fibroids:
This procedure removes the fibroids. Dr. Weyhrich uses a minimally invasive technique called a hysteroscopy or a laparoscopy for small fibroids. For larger fibroids, he may perform open surgery to remove the fibroid.
This procedure uses ultrasound mapping to locate your fibroids and radiofrequency to heat and shrink them through tiny incisions.
In this minimally invasive procedure, Dr. Weyhrich inserts a thin tube into one of your arteries and guides it to your uterus, delivering tiny particles that bond to your blood vessels, stop blood flow, and cause the fibroids to shrink.
Dr. Weyhrich recommends this last-resort procedure when other treatments haven’t worked or if your fibroid is especially large or located in an inconvenient spot. A hysterectomy removes your uterus, which eliminates the fibroids, your period, and your fertility.
If you have heavy periods, you may have fibroids. Contact Darin L. Weyhrich, MD, or request an appointment online.