Abnormal uterine bleeding, such as heavy or prolonged periods (menorrhagia) may affect as many as one in three women at some point in their lives. This frustrating problem can get in the way of making plans, staying active, and even your responsibilities like work in the most severe cases. Take a look at how to stop abnormal uterine bleeding so you can get back to your everyday life.
What Is Abnormal Uterine Bleeding?
Normally, the menstrual cycle occurs every 24 to 38 days with a period of bleeding that lasts between 2 and 7 days and no more blood loss than 80 milliliters. Any variation beyond this could potentially be abnormal.
The causes of abnormal uterine bleeding can be anything from hormonal imbalances to uterine fibroids, bleeding disorders, and ovarian dysfunction.
Treatment Options for Uterine Bleeding
Treatment for abnormal uterine bleeding can range from oral medications to more invasive surgical procedures. Below is a look at some of the most common treatment options.
Hormone treatments may be an effective option to control abnormal uterine bleeding. In some cases, basic hormonal birth control can be enough to regulate cycles and reduce excessive bleeding. However, some women may be experiencing abnormal uterine bleeding due to more severe hormonal imbalances, in which case bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can be the most effective.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are medications like ibuprofen or naproxen that are often recommended for women who experience painful periods. However, taking NSAIDs a few days before the onset of your period may also help lighten the bleeding. NSAIDs actually reduce inflammatory prostaglandins, which may affect blood vessels found in the uterine lining. Some sources suggest that taking an NSAID during your period can reduce blood volume by 20 to 40 percent.
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are most often used for contraception, but may also be recommended for women who have problems with heavy bleeding. These T-shaped contraceptive devices are placed inside the uterus.
IUDs like Mirena are a potential option because they release low progestin levels to prevent pregnancy. This hormone-like release may also lead to reduced uterine bleeding. For reference, Mirena usually needs to be replaced every five years.
Not all types of IUDs may be an option for reducing abnormal uterine bleeding, however. For example, the Paraguard IUD is only used for contraception and is actually not recommended for patients that have heavy periods because the IUD may make the issue worse. Likewise, smaller IUDs like Liletta have a lower likelihood of reducing issues with heavy or abnormal bleeding.
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Endometrial ablation is a procedure that involves using various methods to ablate the endometrial uterine lining. Heat, cryotherapy, laser, or radiofrequency may be used to destroy the lining. Because pregnancy can come along with complications after endometrial ablation, this procedure may only be recommended for women who can commit to contraception until the age of menopause.
Myomectomy or Uterine Artery Embolization
A myomectomy may be recommended if uterine fibroids are to blame for abnormal uterine bleeding. During this procedure, fibroids are surgically removed laparoscopically or hysteroscopically but the uterus stays intact. Uterine artery embolization is another option if heavy bleeding is caused by uterine fibroids. This procedure, which is done by a radiology professional, shrinks fibroids by reducing the blood supply to the uterus.
A Hysterectomy may be recommended in the most severe cases. For instance, if endometrial ablation is performed and heavy bleeding persists, a hysterectomy may be the next step. This surgery involves removing the cervix and uterus, which ends the menstrual cycle permanently and makes conceiving impossible. The procedure can be unique depending on each individual’s circumstances and the surgeon performing the procedure.
For example, sometimes the ovaries are left intact, but sometimes, removing the ovaries is recommended. Here at Coyle Institute, we typically do not remove ovaries if the patient is under 65 years of age. Strong evidence suggests ovaries continue to produce much-needed hormones well into 80 years of age or beyond. Removing hormone-producing organs too soon could cause more harm than good.
Which Treatment is Right for You?
Recommended menorrhagia treatments can vary in a case-by-case scenario. Several factors may be considered, such as:
- The severity of your symptoms
- Your age and plan to bear children
- Your overall health status or medical history
- Your personal preferences regarding certain treatments
Usually, treatment will start with something like birth control or NSAIDs. However, if these basic medicinal treatments prove ineffective, Dr. Coyle may recommend a surgical procedure.
Where To Learn More About Abnormal Uterine Bleeding
Abnormal uterine bleeding does not have to continue to interrupt your life. There may be treatment options available that can make all the difference. If you want to learn more about your options, reach out to the Coyle Institute at 850-637-8258 to obtain a proper diagnosis, examine the most logical treatments, and determine your future prognosis.