Range of treat­ments can lessen heavy pe­ri­ods

The Hamilton Spectator - - HEALTH - MAYO CLINIC NEWS NET­WORK

Dear Mayo Clinic: Af­ter al­most a year of hav­ing a pe­riod that is much heav­ier than nor­mal, my gy­ne­col­o­gist rec­om­mended an IUD as treat­ment. How does this work, and is it safe? I am 38, and I’m done hav­ing chil­dren, but don’t need con­tra­cep­tion.

A: Many types of in­trauter­ine de­vices, or IUDs, are avail­able. The spe­cific kind that has been ap­proved by the U.S. Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion for treat­ment of heavy menses re­leases the hor­mone pro­gestin. This type of IUD is safe and highly ef­fec­tive for eas­ing pe­ri­ods that are heav­ier than nor­mal. IUDs are not the only op­tion for treat­ing this con­di­tion though. Be­fore you move for­ward, con­sider talk­ing with your doc­tor about the range of treat­ment choices avail­able to you.

Hor­monal IUDs are small, Tshaped plas­tic de­vices placed in the uterus that re­lease pro­gestin over time. Typ­i­cally, IUDs are used to pre­vent preg­nancy. But, re­search has shown hor­monal IUDs to be use­ful for eas­ing heavy pe­ri­ods, too. That’s be­cause they not only thicken cer­vi­cal mu­cus to pre­vent sperm from reach­ing or fer­til­iz­ing an egg, they also thin the lin­ing of the uterus. That de­creases men­strual blood flow and cramp­ing.

One of the main ben­e­fits of us­ing an IUD to re­duce heavy pe­ri­ods is that, once placed, an IUD is ef­fec­tive for three to five years. The ex­act amount of time it can be left in place de­pends on the brand you choose. Lit­tle, if any, fol­lowup care is needed to man­age the IUD dur­ing that time.

Side-ef­fects usu­ally are min­i­mal. Some women may no­tice headaches, acne, breast ten­der­ness, mood changes and weight gain when they are us­ing a hor­monal IUD. There is a small risk of tear­ing the uterus when the IUD is placed. But, that’s rare, par­tic­u­larly when the pro­ce­dure is per­formed by an ex­pe­ri­enced physi­cian.

If you pre­fer not to have an IUD, or if you would like to ex­plore other pos­si­ble treat­ment op­tions, there are al­ter­na­tives. Some women take birth con­trol pills to man­age heavy men­strual bleed­ing. This also can be an ef­fec­tive treat­ment. Keep in mind, how­ever, that tak­ing the pill is not a good choice if you smoke. Your doc­tor should re­view your med­i­cal and fam­ily his­tory be­fore you start tak­ing birth con­trol pills to make sure you’re an ap­pro­pri­ate can­di­date for them.

If, as in your sit­u­a­tion, birth con­trol is not needed, an­other op­tion for con­trol­ling men­strual bleed­ing is to take a pill 10 to 12 times a month that con­tains only pro­gestin. The med­i­ca­tion re­duces bleed­ing by cor­rect­ing the hor­mone im­bal­ance that usu­ally con­trib­utes to heavy pe­ri­ods.

If treat­ment with an IUD or med­i­ca­tion is not suc­cess­ful, a va­ri­ety of sur­gi­cal op­tions also can be used to de­crease men­strual blood flow. Most of these pro­ce­dures can be done on an out­pa­tient ba­sis and do not re­quire an overnight hos­pi­tal stay.

Be­fore you make a de­ci­sion, it would be a good idea to take time to re­view all the pos­si­ble treat­ment op­tions with your doc­tor.

FOTOLIA, TNS

There are sev­eral treat­ments avail­able for heavy pe­ri­ods.

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