How common is heavy menstrual bleeding?
Heavy menstrual bleeding is very common. About one third of women seek treatment for it. Heavy menstrual bleeding is not normal. It can disrupt your life and may be a sign of a more serious health problem. If you are worried that your menstrual bleeding is too heavy, tell your obstetrician–gynecologist (ob-gyn).
When is menstrual bleeding considered “heavy”?
Any of the following is considered to be heavy menstrual bleeding:
How can heavy menstrual bleeding affect my health?
Heavy menstrual bleeding may be a sign of an underlying health problem that needs treatment. Blood loss from heavy periods also can lead to a condition called iron-deficiency anemia. Severe anemia can cause shortness of breath and increase the risk of heart problems.
What causes heavy menstrual bleeding?
Many things can cause heavy menstrual bleeding. Some of the causes include the following:
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How is heavy menstrual bleeding evaluated?
When you see your ob-gyn about heavy menstrual bleeding, you may be asked about the following things:
What tests and exams may be used to evaluate heavy menstrual bleeding?
You will have a physical exam, including a pelvic exam. Several laboratory tests may be done. You may have a pregnancy test and tests for some sexually transmitted infections. Based on your symptoms and your age, additional tests may be needed:
Which medications can be used to treat heavy menstrual bleeding?
Medications often are tried first to treat heavy menstrual bleeding:
Which procedures can be used to treat heavy menstrual bleeding?
If medication does not reduce your bleeding, a surgical procedure may be needed:
Adenomyosis: A condition in which the tissue that normally lines the uterus begins to grow in the muscle wall of the uterus.
Cervix: The lower, narrow end of the uterus at the top of the vagina.
Dilation and Curettage (D&C): A procedure in which the cervix is opened (dilated) and tissue is gently scraped (curettage) or suctioned from the inside of the uterus.
Ectopic Pregnancy: A pregnancy in which the fertilized egg begins to grow in a place other than inside the uterus, usually in one of the fallopian tubes.
Endometrial Ablation: A minor surgical procedure in which the lining of the uterus is destroyed to stop or reduce menstrual bleeding.
Endometrial Cancer: Cancer of the lining of the uterus.
Endometrial Biopsy: A procedure in which a small amount of the tissue lining the uterus is removed and examined under a microscope.
Endometriosis: A condition in which tissue that lines the uterus is found outside of the uterus, usually on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and other pelvic structures.
Endometrium: The lining of the uterus.
Fibroids: Growths, usually benign, that form in the muscle of the uterus.
Gonadotropin-releasing Hormone (GnRH) Agonists: Medical therapy used to block the effects of certain hormones.
Hormone Therapy: Treatment in which estrogen and often progestin are taken to help relieve some of the symptoms caused by low levels of these hormones.
Hypothyroidism: A condition in which the thyroid gland makes too little thyroid hormone.
Hysterectomy: Removal of the uterus.
Hysteroscopy: A procedure in which a device called a hysteroscope is inserted into the uterus through the cervix to view the inside of the uterus or perform surgery.
Intrauterine Device (IUD): A small device that is inserted and left inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy.
Iron-Deficiency Anemia: Abnormally low levels of iron, which is the part of the red blood cells that carries oxygen to the cells and tissues of the body.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging: A method of viewing internal organs and structures by using a strong magnetic field and sound waves.
Menopause: The time in a woman’s life when menstruation stops; defined as the absence of menstrual periods for 1 year.
Menstrual Cycle: The monthly process of changes that occur to prepare a woman’s body for possible pregnancy. A menstrual cycle is defined from the first day of menstrual bleeding of one cycle to the first day of menstrual bleeding of the next cycle.
Miscarriage: Loss of a pregnancy that occurs in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy.
Myomectomy: Surgical removal of uterine fibroids only, leaving the uterus in place.
Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory Drugs: A type of pain reliever that relieves pain by reducing inflammation. Many types are available over the counter.
Obstetrician–Gynecologist (Ob-Gyn): A physician with special skills, training, and education in women’s health.
Ovulation: The release of an egg from one of the ovaries.
Pelvic Exam: A physical examination of a woman’s reproductive organs.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: An infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and nearby pelvic structures.
Perimenopause: The period before menopause that usually extends from age 45 years to 55 years.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A condition characterized by two of the following three features: the presence of growths called cysts on the ovaries, irregular menstrual periods, and an increase in the levels of certain hormones.
Polyps: Benign (noncancerous) growths that develop from tissue lining an organ, such as that lining the inside of the uterus.
Puberty: The stage of life when the reproductive organs become functional and secondary sex characteristics develop.
Sexually Transmitted Infections: Infections that are spread by sexual contact, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, human papillomavirus, herpes, syphilis, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV, the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [AIDS]).
Sonohysterography: A procedure in which sterile fluid is injected into the uterus through the cervix while ultrasound images are taken of the inside of the uterus.
Sterilization: A permanent method of birth control.
Tranexamic Acid: A medication prescribed to treat or prevent heavy bleeding.
Ultrasound Exam: A test in which sound waves are used to examine internal structures. During pregnancy, it can be used to examine the fetus.
Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE): A procedure in which the blood vessels to the uterus are blocked. It is used to treat postpartum hemorrhage and other problems that cause uterine bleeding.
Uterus: A muscular organ located in the female pelvis that contains and nourishes the developing fetus during pregnancy.