You don't have to suffer in silence
Currently the only answer to heavy, debilitating periods is to have a full hysterectomy ... not much use if you still want to have kids or if you don’t want to undergo such a major operation. Photo: Getty
Imagine waking up soaked in your own blood. The towels, pad and tampon you used to stem the bleeding seemingly powerless to help.
Imagine having such heavy periods you are willing to have your entire uterus removed, because nothing else will help.
That is the reality for many more women that you might imagine.
In fact, Martha Hickey a professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Victoria and University of Melbourne, says up two one third of all women will experience particularly heavy menstrual bleeding at some point in their lives.
But that is only the ones we know about – many more could experience heavy bleeding but suffer in silence because they are embarrassed to seek help.
“I think there’s generally low public awareness of how common this problem is and women maybe uncomfortable talking about it,” Professor Hickey says. “There are many women whose work and family lives are severely disrupted.”
For some women the heavy periods come out of nowhere and leave again just as mysteriously, for others, they stay for life.
On average during your period you will lose about 40ml of blood. But some women lose more than twice that amount, and can experience severe pain.
The sad thing is that there aren’t a whole heap of treatments, because doctors just don’t know exactly why it occurs (although they do have some ideas).
Hickey is currently putting together a study of women with the condition, although - perhaps because so few women come forward for treatment - she hasn’t yet been able to get hold of the 120 Victorian women she needs to complete it.
“We don’t understand what causes [heavy menstrual bleeding] in the first place,” she says. “We are trying to understand the reason and once we understand the reason we can develop new treatments.”
For many women currently the only answer is to have a full hysterectomy, not much use if you still want to have kids or if you don’t want to undergo such a major operation.
According to this recent US study 63 per cent of women with these heavy periods ended up having surgery to try to help. Compared to women who didn’t have the problem they also ended up paying a lot more in healthcare costs and visiting more doctors.
Hickey says one of the worst things for women who suffer from heavy periods, besides the exorbitant cost of sanitary products that some women need to change every 15 minutes, is just that it is frightening.
“It’s very scary for them, and it’s upsetting for men too - seeing large amounts of blood is scary”.
If you live in Victoria and would like to volunteer for the study, you can contact Uche Ibeh on 83453379 / 83453719 or firstname.lastname@example.org