Periods are one tiresome experience. Not only do they cause intense stomach cramps and bleeding, but also seem to trigger a series of other bodily changes like mood swings and weird food craving. And that is not all.
Some women go through intense heavy bleeding, so much so that they need to change sanitary pads every two hours. The medical term for this phenomenon of heavy bleeding or long menstrual cycle is called Menorrhagia.
What is Menorrhagia?
Menorrhagia is the name for painful periods that can cause a woman to skip work or school due to heavy cramps, bleeding that last for 7 days or longer, tiredness and short of breath, blood clots the size of quarters, among other symptoms. Women who have menorrhagia usually have some underlying health issue, prompting this heavy flow and these problems can vary from being subtle and generally non-surgical to being really serious.
What are the reasons for Menorrhagia?
- Obesity: Fatty tissues contain cholesterol compounds in fat cells, which, over time, can become estrogen. This surplus estrogen can cause the inner uterine wall that sheds during periods, to develop in excess, thereby causing a woman’s periods to get heavy. The usual solution that doctors recommend in such a situation is to go on a diet for weight loss and reduce some extra weight, to help counterattack the increase of estrogen. Going on birth control is also suggested sometimes, since it helps in balancing the excess estrogen in the body.
- Intrauterine Devices or IUDs: It has been observed that some women who use IUDs may experience heavier menstrual flow. This can be because the IUDs can affect the pressure on the blood vessels nearby, causing abrasions, which regulate the blood flow to the uterus. With both copper and hormonal IUDs, there is an increased chance of spotting or bleeding over the next few months after the insertion of an IUD. However, women who experience heavy bleeding after the insertion of one are also at a risk of anemia due to loss of exponentially more blood than usual. Treatments for this can vary, but doctors usually offer some iron tablets for the anemia.
- Certain medications: Some women take certain medicines that can cause an increase in the blood flow during periods during menstruation. Medication like blood thinners or drugs that fight inflammation may cause heavy periods. Other serious hormonal medications like estrogen and progestins or anticoagulants like warfarin can be risk factors, prompting a prolonged menstrual cycle. A doctor may prescribe drugs to reduce the flow of blood only when the woman is menstruating to ease the flow of the cycle.
- Cancers or other health problems: Cancers of the uterus, cervix or ovaries may cause excessive bleeding in some women, which may appear to be a heavy period, but can be a sign of endometrial cancer. Hence, if there is an uncharacteristic heavy bleed (not spotting) midway through the menstrual cycle or after menopause, it’s safe to get a pap test done. However, other ailments, like kidney or liver diseases, thyroid problems, endometriosis, or pelvic inflammatory disease can also cause heavy periods in some women.
- Fibroids: Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths that often flair up during a woman’s childbearing years. These can put pressure on the uterine wall, which can cause more bleeding than usual. These fibroids may also contribute to the growth of blood vessels, that, in exchange, can cause heavy bleeding or menorrhagia. In most cases, fibroids are treated with hormonal medication to shrink their size in case they are small or surgery to remove, if there are too many or it’s too big.
How to treat Menorrhagia?
Depending upon how serious menorrhagia is in some women, doctors prescribe different courses of treatment.
- It can be cured with a proper diet and hormonal control for some.
- For others they may prescribe a surgical solution for this problem.
- Some doctors may suggest hormone therapy to reset the menstrual cycle and balance the lining of the uterus.