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Heavy periods can be stopped with minimally invasive treatment

Natasha Bower, MD, FACOG

by Natasha Bower, MD, FACOG

Most women don’t look forward to having their period, but those who have heavy periods often dread it. A normal cycle, although it may feel like an inconvenience, is an indication of good health and that your birth control method is working. But sometimes a period is so heavy that you have to wear multiple pads and change them every hour or two, even when you’re sleeping. This kind of especially heavy menstrual bleeding is called menorrhagia, and it’s a lot more common than you may think. Besides interfering with sleep, a heavy flow can make daily activities more difficult, whether you’re going shopping, traveling, exercising, or even just sitting at your desk at work.

Sometimes heavy bleeding is caused by underlying bleeding or thyroid disorders, or even problems such as cancer. But in most cases where heavy bleeding occurs regularly, it is caused by one of two conditions: hormonal changes associated with perimenopause (the time just before menopause) or the presence of uterine fibroids or polyps. Now for the good news: At Premier Women’s Care of Southwest Florida, both of these conditions can be treated with medical therapy or minimally invasive, in-office procedures that don’t require anesthesia or hospitalization.

Heavy menstrual bleeding

When you menstruate, you are discharging the nutrient-rich lining of your uterus, a layer of tissue called the endometrium. Hormonal changes around perimenopause — specifically, fluctuations in your estrogen levels — can make this layer become abnormally thick. So, when you have your period, your flow becomes especially heavy, or it may last longer than usual, or even both. Uterine fibroids and polyps, which are non-cancerous growths in or on your uterus, can also cause heavy bleeding.

Birth control methods such as the pill and implants manage estrogen levels with progesterone and are sometimes prescribed to control heavy bleeding associated with menopause. They may also be prescribed to control bleeding associated with fibroids or polyps, but progesterone doesn’t remove the growths, so these medications are sometimes used temporarily until a more permanent treatment can be provided.

Two options for treatment

At Premier Women’s Care of Southwest Florida, we offer two minimally invasive treatment options for women with heavy bleeding due to benign growths or hormone changes around menopause. Both are associated with high success rates and high levels of patient satisfaction. And both are performed as outpatient procedures in most cases.

NovaSure endometrial ablation

NovaSure received FDA approval for treating heavy bleeding in 2001. The procedure uses radiofrequency energy to ablate or remove the uterine lining. NovaSure takes about five minutes, and it uses no incisions. During the procedure, your doctor will gently open your cervix (the opening of your uterus) and insert a slim, wand-shaped device. The device deploys a special netting that conforms to the interior contours of your uterus.

Once the netting is in place, the RF energy is dispersed along the face of the netting for about 90 seconds. The energy heats the lining and destroys it without harming the rest of your uterus. Once the endometrium is destroyed, you must avoid pregnancy. Therefore, if you may want to get pregnant later, you should choose another method.

MyoSure procedure

The MyoSure procedure uses special instruments to remove fibroids and polyps without any incisions. The doctor begins by dilating your cervix just a bit to allow a flexible instrument called a hysteroscope to be inserted. The scope contains a tiny camera that takes real-time images and videos of the inside of your uterus. The images are projected to a screen, and the doctor uses those images to evaluate your fibroids or polyps and determine their precise location.

Next, the doctor inserts a thin wand-shaped device into your uterus. The wand is designed to carefully cut through the fibroid or polyp. Once the tissue is dissected into very small pieces, those pieces are suctioned out through the wand’s hollow tip. Multiple growths can be removed in one treatment, and the length of your treatment will depend on the number and size of the growths. A single grape-sized fibroid takes about 10 minutes to remove.

After either procedure, you may have some cramping, light bleeding and nausea, but these will resolve soon afterward. Most women can return to regular activities after two or three days of rest.

Put an end to heavy menstrual bleeding

Both MyoSure and NovaSure can be very effective in stopping heavy menstrual bleeding without relying on hormone medications. To learn more about the procedures and how they can help you, contact the practice today.