Heavy periods, or menorrhagia, are periods that have excessive or prolonged bleeding. Some clues that your period is heavy include changing pads or tampons every one to two hours, passing blood clots larger than a dime, needing to wear more than one sanitary product to prevent an “accident,” avoiding your usual activities and/or missing work because of your period.
It’s estimated that heavy periods affect 10 million women.1
Every woman’s body is different, so it can be difficult to determine what a “normal” period is. Generally, a period cycle lasts about 28-35 days, with bleeding that lasts 5-7 days.2 Unfortunately, there are millions of women who suffer from menstrual cycles that detour far from what is considered a cycle. Learn more about heavy period symptoms.
Erratic cycles that vary in flow from month to month are common, especially as a woman approaches her menopausal years. Heavy bleeding is not considered normal, even if it doesn’t occur every month.
Fibroids are noncancerous tissue growths in the muscle walls of the uterus.
Uterine polyps are small protrusions of tissue that grow on the uterine lining.
Women who are over age 35, overweight, have never been pregnant, and/or have a hormonal imbalance are at higher risk for heavy periods.
There are a variety of options available, including lifestyle changes, medication and minor procedures. For example, the NovaSure® procedure can be done in five minutes or less, and it only has to be performed once to lighten or stop your heavy periods. It is safer than a hysterectomy, –hysterectomy has a 41% rate of complications compared to just 9% for endometrial ablation3–and many women can return to work the day after the procedure. On average, women who underwent endometrial ablation lost 26 fewer work days annually* than those who had a hysterectomy.4
The MyoSure® procedure can remove certain polyps and fibroids, which are common causes of heavy periods. Unlike tissue removal through the abdomen, the MyoSure procedure requires no incisions or cuts into the skin. It avoids the risks of general anesthesia. The recovery period is quicker, and in a clinical study, the overall complication rate was less than two percent.5
Women are unable to get pregnant after a hysterectomy, but that’s not the case with all procedures. For example, a myomectomy removes fibroids, and a polypectomy removes polyps; both are minimally invasive procedures that don’t remove or even cut the uterus.
It is important to know that it is still possible to become pregnant after endometrial ablation. Pregnancy following endometrial ablation is very dangerous for both the mother and the fetus. Before you have the procedure, you should talk to your doctor about a form of permanent contraception.
*Combined number of days lost from work due to absence and from short-term disability leave.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bleeding Disorders in Women. http://www.cdc.gov/features/bleedingdisorder/. Accessed June 20, 2016.
- Menstrual Cycle: What’s Normal, What’s Not. The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/menstrual-cycle/MY01541. Accessed June 14, 2016.
- Dickersin K, Munro MG, Clark M, et al; Surgical Treatments Outcomes Project for Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding (STOP-DUB) Research Group. Hysterectomy compared with endometrial ablation for dysfunctional uterine bleeding: a randomized controlled trial. Obstet Gynecol. 2007;110(6):1279-1289.
- Miller JD, Lenhart GM, Bonafede MM, Lukes AS, Laughlin-Tommaso SK. Cost-effectiveness of global endometrial ablation vs hysterectomy for treatment of abnormal uterine bleeding: US commercial and Medicaid payer perspectives. Popul Health Manage. 2015;18(5):373-382.
- Emanuel MH, Wamsteker K, Hart AA, Metz G, Lammes FB, Long-term results of hysteroscopic myomectomy for abnormal uterine bleeding. Obstet Gynecol. 1999;93:743-748 (II-2).