“What? My period…again?!”
It is not uncommon for women to dread “that time of the month,” but heavy or prolonged periods can make it that much worse. Right now, more than 8 million women in the U.S. suffer from excessive menstrual bleeding, or menorrhagia, causing them to live restricted lifestyles often resulting in missed time from work and social activities.
Excessive menstrual bleeding is a common issue which affects roughly one in five women, yet it is a subject most women do not speak openly about. While some women may not realize they have an issue, others may be too embarrassed to discuss it with other people, including their obstetrician/gynecologist. As a gynecologist, I have seen hundreds of women unnecessarily suffering who were completely unaware that a variety of effective, minimally invasive solutions are available.
In the past, women with excessive menstrual bleeding were typically offered treatments like hormone therapy or hysterectomy; but for many, these treatments proved ineffective or unnecessarily invasive. Hormone therapy is usually effective only 50 percent of the time. Additionally, hormone therapy is not recommended for women with a history of cardiovascular disease, blood clots, diabetes or breast cancer. Women who do fit the criteria may experience undesirable side effects including headaches, weight gain and nausea. The most invasive treatment, hysterectomy, remains a common surgical procedure which results in a lengthy recovery period. Most women are unaware there are less invasive options to treat excessive menstrual bleeding.
Today, physicians have safe, effective and fast alternatives for women who have completed their families and no longer want to suffer from debilitating symptoms. Endometrial ablation, an alternative to hysterectomy and hormones, gently removes the lining of the uterus. Some endometrial ablation procedures, such as impedance-based ablation, take a mere 90 seconds and can be performed in the comfort of a physician’s office, in most cases for the cost of a patient co-pay.
Most women who have the procedure are able to go home shortly after the endometrial ablation. Afterward, there may be mild cramping and increased discharge for two to four weeks. For a few days after the procedure, it is normal for patients to feel tired, but most women are able to return to normal activities fairly quickly. Intercourse and strenuous activity is usually restricted for two weeks after the procedure.
If excessive menstrual bleeding is affecting your daily life and preventing you from doing the things you love, talk to your gynecologist about endometrial ablation. Most of my patients have returned to work a day or two after the procedure, whereas a hysterectomy often requires recovery time of six to eight weeks. I estimate that 80 percent of patients never have a period again. Those patients that do have a period usually have a much lighter, shorter, tolerable period than before the procedure.
Holly Dickson is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist at Enumclaw Medical Center on Cole Street. For more information about menorrhagia or current treatment options, contact Dickson at 360-802-5760 or visit www.aboutheavyperiods.com.