There’s no reason to suffer in silence. (Partner Content)
If you suffer through heavy periods, you’re far from alone.
One in five women aged 35 to 55 experience heavy periods, but not all may know that there are a number of medically-backed treatment options available.
And such options are not as drastic as having a hysterectomy.
Doctors are also lifting their game on heavy periods in order to better talk through the issue with women, with new Clinical Care standards released to help medical professionals assist women raising concerns about their periods.
Informed choices are essential, especially given the physical and emotional toll that heavy periods can have on women.
As Sydney GP Dr Ginni Mansberg says, multiple studies show that heavy periods can significantly affect a woman’s ability to participate in social, work and sporting activities, and take a take a a big toll on her sex life.
“And they suffer in silence. We don’t talk to each other about it and we often don’t talk to our doctors!”
The ‘normal’ versus ‘heavy’ period
Doctors call them everything from ‘abnormal uterine bleeding’ to ‘menorrhagia’ but those of us who experience it know them simply as heavy periods. The associated pain and irritability can be emotionally and physically draining, and even embarrassing.
So how do you now if your period is ‘normal’ or ‘heavy’? Well there is no set criteria and all women experience periods differently.
But as a guide, the Wear White Campaign suggests that a heavy period could be one that lasts more than seven days and/or has bleeding so severe that you need to double up on sanitary protection, or change tampons or sanitary pads every one to two hours. They suggest that if you feel your period is restricting you from activities and even stops you from working, then it could be a sign of a heavy period. Other signs include severe stomach cramping and loose bowel movements, large blots, nausea, fatigue And anaemia.
Heavy periods are more than annoying, they can disrupt professional and social lives, seeing some women feel no option but to miss certain activities. They can lead to anxiety, moodiness, depression and a loss of confidence or self esteem.
All or any of the above is a lot to go through alone.
Why are we grossed out by periods?
Given periods are simply part of life for women, why is there a continued stigma around discussing what we’re really experiencing?
Dr Mansberg finds it fascinating that “society is totally grossed out by periods”, especially when you consider that chemically, the blood in a period is identical to the blood that comes from a cut in your arm.
“Plus there’s this urban myth that is close to impossible to budge, that to have a period is ‘cleansing’. That somehow period blood is packed full of toxic female venom and that it must be shed or risk us start cackling and jumping on a broomstick.”
The more misinformation and mystique there is about periods, and women’s hormonal issues generally, the more an entire industry of misinformation and exploitation thrives.
Dr Mansberg shares another note to remember about periods: “Medically, if you plan to get pregnant next month, shedding the lining of your uterus to prepare a new fresh one for the incoming embryo makes a LOT of sense. Other than that it is a waste of blood, stress and money! They are not necessary!”
Opening up and seeking help
Talking about what we’re experiencing will help end the mystique around heavy periods, according to Dr Mansberg. She wants to see more of us sharing and highlighting the facts about menstruating, and to feel empowered about the options that can help us feel healthier and happier.
A GP can assess whether your periods can be better managed through various treatment options, like an anti-inflammatory medicine, or if you might need to see a gynaecologist for a more comprehensive assessment and treatment options.
And importantly, Dr Mansberg adds, if you don’t feel you’re being heard by your GP then get another opinion.
She concedes that doctors haven’t always been great at listening to patients as well as they could, especially when it comes to heavy periods. “It can be an awkward topic to discuss and anecdotally I hear many women feel women’s health is not handled well by us GPs. We have to lift our game.”
She also sees a need to counter the misinformation available online about women’s health. “Female hormones are blamed for anything and everything under the sun. And the solutions I see touted around are utterly ridiculous,” says Dr Mansberg.
“Mostly around hormone balancing foods and supplements for which there is NO evidence. This leaves many women spending big and putting up with untreated women’s health problems. Or turning to ‘unregulated, untested, and potentially harmful compounded “bioidentical” hormones’, as the Australian Menopause Society puts it.”
It starts by seeing your GP. If you think you could be one of the one in five women who experience heavy periods, then book an appointment today.
Wear White Again has loads of excellent resources on heavy periods, including more information on their causes and potential treatments. You can also download a guide how to talk about it with your GP in order to get the best possible outcome.