Heavy periods (menorrhagia) are a common and distressing problem, especially between 30-50 years of age.
You may have menorrhagia if your periods are long (>7 days) or heavy (flooding or blood clots). This can lead to tiredness, low iron levels and anaemia.
Heavy bleeding should be assessed by your GP for an underlying cause. A pelvic examination and a blood test for anaemia and iron are usually needed. A pelvic ultrasound is often advised and sometimes a sample of cells is taken from the uterus.
The causes of menorrhagia include:
· Fibroids (benign tumours of the uterus)
· Polyps (growths on the lining of the uterus)
· Adenomyosis & endometriosis (cells from the uterus growing in the wrong places)
· Cancer of the uterus (uncommon)
In many cases no cause for the heavy bleeding is found. It is then known as ‘dysfunctional uterine bleeding’ (DUB).
Several different medications are available which can reduce bleeding. These include tranxenamic acid tablets, anti-inflammatory tablets, the Pill and progestogens (tablets, injections or implants).
However, polyps, fibroids and uterine cancer may require surgical treatment.
What’s new for menorrhagia?
The most effective medical treatment for reducing blood loss is the IUS (intrauterine system) shown on the right. This small, plastic, T-shaped device contains a hormone (levonorgestrel), and is inserted by the doctor into the uterus.
The IUS is well tolerated, although irregular bleeding and spotting are common in the first 3-6 months of use. By 12 months, most women have only light bleeding and many have none at all.
The device has recently become available on the PBS for heavy periods. It is especially useful for women who also need contraception and can help avoid the need for a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) in others. It can remain in place for up to 5 years.