Now, I know what you are thinking. What in the world is a gynecologist doing talking about Shark Week? Well, it's probably NOT the Shark Week you are thinking about!
Throughout time, women have chosen various creative nicknames to describe that "time of the month". Phrases such as these are used to describe this inevitable time:
Aunt Flo is visiting.
I've got to take my unpaid leave.
I'm down with the girl flu.
I'm on a ketchup diet.
Time to hail the red moon.
The painters are in. AND
I'm experiencing technical difficulties.
These are just a few of the MANY creative catch phrases we use. There are numerous others, but the fact is that most women (and their partners) consider those few days as almost a handicap. In some cases, the menstrual flow is literally debilitating. Suffering from pain, cramps and heavy blood flow is just not what any of us want.
Heavy menstrual period is called menorrhagia in technical terms. Menorrhagia can occur due to MANY reasons, but, other times, there is not really a specific cause. Some of the causes may be hereditary such as inherited clotting disorders. These usually present in early teen years with the first menstrual cycle. Other causes occur later. Examples are growths in the uterus such as uterine fibroids or polyps, ovarian cysts, or even endometriosis. Hormone imbalances, thyroid disorders and certain medications may also increase the risk of heavy periods.
If the amount and degree of blood loss is severe, it may need to a low blood count or anemia. Anemia in this case is usually due to excess loss of blood so that the body cannot make enough new blood cells to compensate for the ones lost. Eventually iron deficiency will occur which makes things even worse!
Painful periods (also called dysmenorrhea) are also something that many women feel that must endure. Dysmenorrhea can be due to ovarian cysts, problems in the uterus, endometriosis or "just because".
So what is the good news? The GREAT news is that a lady doesn't have to suffer! There are viable, effective treatments. For women who have NOT completed a family, options such as cyclic progesterone, oral contraceptives, the Skyla or Mirena IUD or even a medication called tranexamic acid (Lysteda) may be used. These options may also be used in a woman who wants no further children, but, oftentimes, those women will not want to continue taking medications regularly.
Surgery is also an option. Hysterectomy is usually the last resort, but, if there are no obvious abnormalities with the uterus, a more conservative type of day surgery called an endometrial ablation may be a good option. There are many types of endometrial ablation. The ones commonly used in the USA are: NovaSure, CryoSure, ThermaChoice, and HydroThermal Ablation. Various types of energy are used to cauterize, burn or freeze the inside lining of the uterus. When this is done, the lining does not completely grow back each month so the patient will have either a much lighter and much less painful period or possibly no period at all. We have found the success rate to be very high in patients who are properly screened. Ask your doctor what option may be the best for you.