It’s pretty safe to say that most women don’t actually look forward to having their periods. Sure, a normal cycle means you’re healthy (and your birth control method is working), but the actual period itself can be kind of a pain. Now imagine that period is a lot heavier — so heavy you have to wear multiple pads and change your protection every hour or two, even when you’re sleeping. That’s menorrhagia, and it’s a lot more common than most women think. A heavy flow interferes with sleep, and it can make a lot of other activities difficult too, like going to a movie, traveling, shopping or even sitting at a desk at work.
Some heavy bleeding can be caused by underlying bleeding disorders or other problems like cancer. Intermittent heavy bleeding can be associated with an IUD problem or a miscarriage. But in most cases, heavy bleeding that occurs on a regular basis is caused by one of two conditions: hormonal changes associated with perimenopause (the time before you enter menopause) or the presence of uterine fibroids or polyps. Fortunately, at Premier Women’s Care of Southwest Florida, both these conditions can be treated with minimally invasive procedures that don’t require anesthesia or hospitalization.
Heavy menstrual bleeding
When you have your period, you slough off the nutrient-rich lining of your uterus, a layer of tissue called the endometrium. Hormonal changes around menopause — specifically, fluctuations in your levels of estrogen — can cause this layer to become abnormally thick. That means when you have your period, your flow can be especially heavy or it may last longer than normal (or both). Uterine fibroids and polyps — benign (non-cancerous) growths in or on your uterus — also cause hormonal fluctuations that lead to heavy bleeding.
Birth control methods that use progesterone to manage estrogen levels (like the pill and implants) are sometimes prescribed to control heavy bleeding associated with menopause, but these come with risks which can be especially significant for older women. They may also be prescribed to control bleeding associated with fibroids or polyps, but because progesterone can’t make the growths “go away,” these medications are considered a temporary measure until a more permanent treatment is 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 chances 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 received FDA approval for treating heavy bleeding back 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, it can be very difficult to get pregnant, but it’s not impossible. If you want to get pregnant, you should choose another method. And if you don’t want to get pregnant, you should still use birth control until you’re officially in menopause.
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.