Health Watch: Heavy Periods Could Cause Organ-Damaging Anemia

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Heavy periods can bring monthly pain and inconvenience but abnormal uterine bleeding (AUB) can cause periods every couple of weeks.

Dr. Brigid Holloran-Schwartz, SLUCare OB/GYN at SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital says women can expect to change their pad or tampon every three hours on a regular period, but, "If a patient tells me that they're getting to every one hour, two hours that they are changing their pad, or they're waking up soiling their sheets or their clothes during the day, that's really a concerning symptom."

She worries about AUB causing organ-damaging anemia.  For women with extremely regular periods but no serious illness, she encourages over-the-counter ibuprofen and another medication called tranaxamic acid to be taking during the menstrual cycle.

But, for women who are experiencing AUB, there are many treatment options – from medication to surgery – to effectively reduce the excessive bleeding. Treatment depends on the cause and whether a woman plans to have more children.

"The Mirena IUD, which is a progesterone-releasing IUD, also has FDA approval for heavy menstrual bleeding."

"Then, there's other forms called the Nuva-Ring, which is a monthly ring that is placed in the vagina."

"The hormones are very similar to a birth control pill."

NSAIDs and hormones through birth control pills often help decrease blood flow. If medication doesn’t reduce the bleeding, however, surgery may be necessary. Endometrial ablation destroys the lining of the uterus. It stops or reduces the total amount of bleeding. Pregnancy is not likely after ablation, but it can happen. If it does, the risk of serious complications, including life-threatening bleeding, is greatly increased. If you have this procedure, you will need to use birth control until after menopause.

Myomectomy or uterine artery embolization to remove fibroids is another option.  Your doctor may take them out or cut off the vessels that supply them with blood.

Hysterectomy, the surgical removal of the uterus, may be necessary if your fibroids are very large or you have endometrial or uterine cancer.  Otherwise, it's a last resort when other treatments haven't worked.  After the uterus is removed, a woman can no longer get pregnant and will no longer have periods.

But the key is to talk with your OB/GYN and decide what is best for you.  To learn more or to book an appointment with a SLUCare OB/GYN, click here.

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