When your menstrual period is more than a monthly inconvenience
Most women are familiar with the discomfort and inconvenience of vaginal bleeding during their monthly period. However, if you have heavy and long-lasting menstrual bleeding, or irregular bleeding (such as bleeding between periods), you may have a condition called menorrhagia.
Some signs that you may have menorrhagia include:
- Needing to change sanitary products more frequently, such as once an hour, during your period.
- Bleeding from your period that lasts more than seven days in a row.
- Spotting or bleeding between periods on a regular basis.
- Spotting or bleeding during pregnancy (unrelated to another condition).
In order to diagnose menorrhagia, your doctor will need to rule out other conditions that might be causing your heavy or irregular vaginal bleeding.
What might be causing your heaving bleeding?
Your doctor may suggest one or more tests to see if you have menorrhagia. The diagnosis may include:
- Blood tests – Your blood may be analyzed to find clues to an underlying condition.
- Dilation and curettage (D&C) – During this minimally invasive procedure, your cervix is opened (dilated) and then scraped with a special tool called a curette to remove a sample of endometrial tissue.
- Hysteroscopy – A thin, lighted tube is inserted into your vagina so the doctor can view the inside of the uterus.
- Pap test – Your doctor will take a sample from your cervical cells to diagnose an underlying condition.
- Ultrasound – This allows your doctor to view the inside of your uterus to determine the cause of your condition.
These diagnostic tests help determine if you have a condition that’s causing your heavy or irregular bleeding. There are several conditions that may result in menorrhagia, including:
- Bleeding disorders
- Eptopic pregnancy
- Fibroids in the uterus
- High levels of endothelins (peptides, or amino acids, that constrict blood vessels)
- High levels of prostaglandins (hormones that affect blood vessels) in the uterus
- Hormonal imbalance
- Liver, kidney or thyroid conditions
- Pelvic infection
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Platelet disorder
- Polyps or tumors in the pelvic cavity
Heavy or irregular bleeding can be treated successfully
Depending on the cause of your condition, as well as your age, health and medical history, your doctor may recommend one of these treatments for menorrhagia:
- Endometrial ablation uses laser, heat or freezing to scar the lining of the uterus and reduce abnormal bleeding.
- Hormonal therapy with progesterone helps mimic pregnancy or menopause to reduce bleeding.
- Iron supplements combat anemia (lack of red blood cells).
- Prostaglandin inhibitor helps reduce the amount of bleeding that takes place.
In severe cases, hysterectomy (removing the uterus) may be the best choice for treatment.