Menorrhagia is a condition that results in excessive menstrual bleeding and cramping. Not to be confused with a heavy flow, which is normal for many women during their period, the considerable blood loss and accompanying symptoms can be debilitating for women suffering from menorrhagia, making it impossible to carry out even normal day-to-day tasks.
The most apparent symptom of menorrhagia is an abnormally heavy menstrual flow. Women with this condition often soak through at least one pad or tampon per hour during the heaviest part of their period, and frequently feel the need to double up on products and change them more often – even in the middle of the night. Menorrhagia also causes sufferers to pass large blood clots – around the size of a quarter, sometimes larger – while menstruating, or bleed for longer than a week. The intensity of this blood loss can create secondary symptoms, such as severe cramping and anemia.
There are a variety of conditions that can trigger menorrhagia in women. Hormone imbalances, uterine dysfunction and abnormalities, certain medications, birth control, pregnancy complications, genetic bleeding disorders, and cancer are all known factors in this condition developing. Additionally, girls who have just begun menstruating may be at a higher risk for menorrhagia due to inconsistent ovulation during their cycles.
If you think you may have menorrhagia, a doctor can confirm the diagnosis with a variety of tests. The doctor may use blood tests, a pap test, ultrasounds or biopsies, as well as asking you about your medical and genetic history and details about your menstrual cycles. After the initial diagnosis and tests, further testing may be requested. This can include more specialized ultrasounds and hysteroscopy, in which a small, lighted scope is used to look at the uterus.
Because menorrhagia is most frequently a symptom of other reproductive conditions, doctors must create individualized treatment plans that target these disorders. When hormonal imbalance is the culprit, certain birth control medications can help alleviate symptoms by rebalancing the system. NSAIDs and tranexamic acid can also reduce the discomforts of menorrhagia by slowing blood loss and providing pain relief.
When to See a Doctor
If you think you might be experiencing menorrhagia, it’s important to see a doctor right away to determine the cause of your symptoms and discuss treatment options. You should also consult your physician if the symptoms of your menorrhagia change, particularly if they are worsening. Because there are so many potential underlying causes for this condition, regular checkups and monitoring are essential to your continued reproductive health and well-being.