Menstruation is the monthly vaginal bleeding women experience as the uterine lining is shed. Every month, an ovary releases an egg that travels down the fallopian tube to the uterus. If the egg is not fertilized, the egg and lining of the uterus are shed, resulting in menstruation. The average menstrual period lasts from 3 to 5 days, although it can vary from person to person and month to month.
Some women have heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia) on a regular basis. In addition to a heavy flow, the bleeding can last for more than 7 days. Heavy menstrual bleeding can interfere with a woman’s daily life, and can cause anemia, an iron deficiency whose symptoms are weakness and fatigue. At the McKinney, TX based office of Craig Ranch OB/GYN, Dr. Andrew Schimmer and the rest of the doctors and staff will help their patients achieve a healthy, pain-free, quality of life.
Does having heavy menstrual cycles mean I will be infertile?
A woman’s menstrual cycle is a window into her fertility. They are used to help track cycles, know approximately when we’re the most fertile, and give clues to our chances to become pregnant. The flow of your menstrual cycle provides one of those clues, as both abnormally heavy or light menstrual cycles can point to issues that affect fertility.
While not a direct correlation, overly heavy menstrual bleeding can affect your ability to become pregnant. That’s because the condition often points to issues such as uterine fibroids or polyps, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, or a hormone imbalance.
Heavy Menstrual Bleeding Symptoms
In addition to a heavier-than-normal menstrual flow, a woman with menorrhagia may experience the following:
- Bleeding for more than 1 week
- Large blood clots in the menstrual flow
- Constant pain in the lower abdomen
If a woman with heavy menstrual bleeding develops anemia, she can experience weakness, fatigue and shortness of breath.
What happens if I don’t treat my heavy menstrual bleeding?
Excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding can lead to other medical conditions:
- Anemia — Menorrhagia can cause blood loss anemia by reducing the number of circulating red blood cells. The number of circulating red blood cells is measured by hemoglobin, a protein that enables red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues. Iron deficiency anemia occurs as your body attempts to make up for the lost red blood cells by using your iron stores to make more hemoglobin. Signs and symptoms include pale skin, weakness, and fatigue.
- Severe pain — Women with heavy menstrual cycles also often have painful menstrual cramping, known as dysmenorrhea. These can be severe enough to require medical evaluation and testing.
Heavy Menstrual Bleeding Causes
Heavy menstrual bleeding can be caused by various conditions or factors, including the following:
- Uterine fibroids
- Polycystic-ovary syndrome
- Hormonal imbalance
- Complications from pregnancy
- Intrauterine device (IUD)
- Certain medications
Heavy menstrual bleeding may also be caused by a platelet disorder or von Willebrand’s disease. In some cases, the cause of heavy menstrual bleeding is unknown.
What are some ways I can control my heavy menstrual cycles on my own?
If you have heavy cycles, taking iron supplements is a must, as you are a candidate to suffer from anemia due to blood loss. Taking ibuprofen (Advil, Aleve, etc.) can help you reduce your pain, menstrual cramping, and the amount of bleeding. If you’re not on the pill, changing to this form of birth control and help reduce the amount of bleeding and it will typically shorten longer cycles. The same is true of today’s FDA-approved intrauterine devices — Mirena®, Liletta®, Kyleena®, Skyla®, and ParaGard®.
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Diagnosing Heavy Menstrual Bleeding In McKinney, TX
Heavy menstrual bleeding may be diagnosed through a physical examination, and review of the patient’s medical history. One of our doctors may want to perform Additional diagnostic tests which may include the following:
- Blood tests
- PAP tests
- Endometrial biopsy
A hysteroscopy may be performed to view the inside of the uterus, and determine whether fibroids, polyps or other problems are causing the heavy bleeding.
Can heavy menstrual bleeding lead to emergency room visits?
Having menorrhagia is not uncommon. It is estimated that 1 in 20 women who menstruate have heavy cycles lasting more than 7 days or passing large blood clots.
Can this become an emergency situation? Yes. If you experience severe, acute bleeding in which you soak through four or more pads or tampons in a two-hour period that merits an immediate trip to the hospital.
Candidates for Menstrual Bleeding Treatment
Heavy menstrual bleeding, clinically known as menorrhagia, is classified as menstrual bleeding lasting more than 7 days. It can also be defined as very heavy menstrual bleeding, much above normal levels.
How do you know if this is what is happening? If you need to change your tampon or pad after less than 2 hours or if you pass blood clots the size of a quarter or larger, that is heavy bleeding. That amount of bleeding merits a visit with our team at our McKinney, TX gynecology office.
Treatment For Heavy Menstrual Bleeding In McKinney, Texas
Treatment for heavy menstrual bleeding varies depending on whether there are any underlying conditions. Iron supplements to treat anemia, and anti-inflammatory medication to reduce the amount of bleeding, are often prescribed. Dr. Schimer and the rest of our providers can offer Additional treatments that may include the following:
- Oral contraceptives
- Hormone supplements
- IUD removal
- Tranexamic acid
If conservative methods are unsuccessful, surgery may be necessary. Surgical procedures we offer may include the following:
- Dilation and curettage
- Endometrial ablation (destroys uterine lining)
- Myomectomy (removes uterine fibroids)
In severe cases, a hysterectomy may be recommended.
Recovery after treatment
Whether there will be recovery after our treatments to help with your heavy menstrual cycle depends upon the treatment approach we use. Hormone therapy or changing your birth control methods obviously don’t require recovery. Neither does the use of antifibrinolytic medications.
Surgical treatments will involve recovery. Dilation and curettage doesn’t involve difficult recovery. Nor does endometrial ablation. However, a hysterectomy is a major surgery and will include a lengthy recovery.
When we’re designing your treatment to reduce your menstrual bleeding, we’ll discuss what you can expect for recovery, if there will be one.