Heavy Menstrual Flow and Uterine Fibroids
Menstrual periods with abnormally heavy or prolonged bleeding are termed menorrhagia. Though many women may experience a heavy flow of blood during their periods, not all may fit into the category of menorrhagia.
Symptoms of a Heavy menstrual flow include:
- Soaking through one or more sanitary pads every hour for several hours
- Need of double sanitary protection to control blood flow
- Waking up at night for a need to change the sanitary pad
- Bleeding persisting for more than a week
- Restricted daily activities due to menstrual blood flow
- Losing around 1/3rd of a cup of menstrual blood per cycle for two cycles
At times, such heavy blood flow may be an indicator of a larger problem lying within the uterus, which is uterine fibroids.
What are uterine fibroids?
Fibroids are non-cancerous benign tumours that grow within the uterus. Fibroids are common and affect one in five women during their childbearing age. By the age of fifty half of women have fibroids.
They can be very small in size, and need a microscope to be detected or can be huge and weigh several pounds. They can grow in various portions of the uterus including:
-The muscular wall of the uterus
-Under the lining of the uterus
-Outside the lining of the uterus
Depending on their size and the portion of the uterus they are growing they can cause various symptoms. In some women they may not cause any symptoms and may be discovered accidentally during an ultrasound or a pelvic examination, however in others they may lead to symptoms such as:
- Heavy periods as described above including blood clots
- Periods that last longer than a week
- Need to urinate more frequently
- Painful periods
- A feeling of fullness in the lower abdomen
- Backache or leg pains
Fibroids contribute to heavy menstrual flow, by applying pressure on the uterine wall, hindering normal contraction of the uterus, stimulating the growth of blood vessels, or by causing hormonal imbalance. Very rarely a fibroid may also cause acute pain. This can be in a case when it outgrows its blood supply.
The exact reason for the development of fibroids is not known, but most of them can be linked to hormones or genes. Fibroids develop mostly in reproductive women when their oestrogen levels are the highest. This is the reason why they may shrink as the woman reaches her menopause, and her monthly periods stop. In some women, fibroids may also develop due to more growth factors or extracellular matrix material which makes them overgrow.
How are fibroids diagnosed and treated?
Fibroids can be diagnosed upon pelvic examination by your gynaecologist, who may also advise for an ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis. At times, other tests such as MRI, hysteroscopy, or biopsy of the uterine lining may be done for a detailed study of fibroids.
For treating fibroids various modes of treatments may depend upon, the severity of symptoms, age, and whether the woman with fibroids wants to get pregnant in the future or not. The treatments may range from medications to surgery. In some cases, hysterectomy or complete removal of the uterus through conventional surgery or laparoscopy may be done to get rid of fibroids completely.
When to meet your gynaecologist for fibroids?
It is recommended that in case of heavy bleeding, feeling of fullness in the lower abdomen, or having excessive menstrual cramps one meets their gynaecologist. Besides, regular gynaecological check-ups are recommended which can help one get aware of developing fibroids at an early stage.
What can you do to prevent the development of fibroids?
Though due to the genetic and hormonal association that fibroids have, they cannot be completely prevented. But some lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of getting them. Regular exercise is recommended for all women, which helps control weight and in turn keeps the hormones in balance. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables helps maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Ankura hospital for women and children has a team of highly specialised and experienced gynecologists, who are experts in diagnosing and treating fibroids and associated problems.