Menorrhagia is a medical term that refers to menstrual periods with prolonged or heavy bleeding which is abnormal. This is different from a “heavy period” in that most women don’t lose enough blood in heavier periods to be diagnosed with menorrhagia.
What Are the Common Symptoms that Accompany Heavy Menstrual Bleeding?
Menorrhagia is more severe than a normal to heavy period because of the severity in blood loss and menstrual cramping to the degree that normal daily activities are not possible. Signs of abnormally heavy periods include:
- Needing to change a tampon or sanitary pad at least once per hour for several hours consecutively
- Waking at night and needing to change sanitary protection
- Menstrual bleeding that lasts longer than a week
- Passing abnormally large blood clots
- Inability to tend to daily tasks
- Increased fatigue, tiredness or other symptoms related to anemia
What are the Causes of Menorrhagia?
Typical causes of abnormal heavy periods may include:
- Fibroids or polyps — both of these abnormal but benign growths can cause heavy or prolonged bleeding.
- Hormonal imbalance or ovarian dysfunction — an imbalance of progesterone and estrogen can cause menorrhagia.
- Intrauterine device (IUD)
- Uterine or cervical cancers
- Adenomyosis — when the endometrial glands become embedded in the uterine muscles bleeding and discomfort can occur
- Von Willebrand’s disease or other bleeding disorders
- Certain medications such as anticoagulants, hormone drugs and anti-inflammatory drugs
- Complications during pregnancy such as low-lying placenta or miscarriage
What are the Treatments for Heavy Periods?
Before being treated for menorrhagia, one of the following diagnostic tests may be recommended:
- Blood tests — a blood sample may determine whether anemia, thyroid or blood-clotting disorders are present.
- Endometrial biopsy — the doctor collects a tissue sample from the endometrium for testing
- Ultrasound — sound imaging of the ovaries, uterus and pelvis
- Pap test — testing cervical cells for a range of issues that contribute to heavy bleeding
- Hysteroscopy — a lighted instrument that is inserted vaginally to allow the doctor to inspect the inside of the uterus
- Sonohysterography — an ultrasound that also uses a fluid to create an image of the uterine lining
Once diagnosed, medications are usually the first treatment prescribed. These may include anti-inflammatory drugs, medicines that reduce menstrual blood loss, hormone therapy as well as oral contraceptives which have been found to help regulate menstrual cycles and reduce their intensity.
When medications fail to help manage menorrhagia, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure to correct the cause of your condition. Procedures that treat menorrhagia include:
- Dilation and curettage (D&C) — scraping or suctioning the uterine tissues to reduce bleeding
- Endometrial ablation — the surgical destruction of the endometrial tissue using focused ultrasound, laser, heat or radiofrequency
- Myomectomy — the surgical removal of uterine fibroids
- Resection of the endometrium — the surgeon removes the endometrial tissue using an electrosurgical wire loop
- Hysterectomy — surgery to remove the uterus and cervix
When to See a Doctor & How Advanced Gynecology Can Help
If you’re experiencing abnormal menstrual bleeding such as heavy periods, irregular bleeding or bleeding between periods or vaginal bleeding after menopause, call your doctor.
Advanced Gynecology is here for you with board-certified gynecologists and surgeons who can help you find the best solution for your menorrhagia without having to travel far.
Call us today at 706-389-9228 to speak with a patient coordinator.