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Very Heavy Menstrual Bleeding causes symptoms treatments

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Updated July 17, 2009

What is very heavy menstrual bleeding?

As you get closer to menopause, it may be hard to tell when your period is going to start. The time between your periods may be longer or shorter than usual. When it does start, bleeding may be very heavy and last for several weeks.

You may have dysfunctional uterine bleeding or DUB. DUB most often affects women over 45. Usually it is caused by an imbalance in the chemicals in the body (hormones) that control the menstrual cycle.

Younger women also may have heavy bleeding. Usually it is because of an irregular menstrual cycle. A woman may go for several months without a period, but the lining of her uterus continues to build up. When finally her body sheds the uterine lining, she may have very heavy bleeding.

The symptoms can be very upsetting and may make you feel limited in the things you can do. Sometimes, the symptoms are a sign of a more serious problem.

Your doctor will probably do a blood test. Depending on the results, your medical history, and your age, the doctor may recommend that you have a biopsy to rule out endometrial hyperplasia.

What treatments are used for very heavy menstrual bleeding?

  • Birth control pills or other medicines may be helpful.
  • Another choice is watchful waiting.
  • A surgical procedure called endometrial ablation may help to relieve very heavy menstrual bleeding. Endometrial ablation causes sterility (inability to become pregnant), but it does not trigger menopause. The long-term effects of endometrial ablation are unknown.

Do you have a bleeding disorder?

If you have very heavy periods (lasting more than 7 days or soaking more than one pad or tampon every 2 to 3 hours), frequent or long-lasting nosebleeds, easy bruising, or prolonged oozing of blood after dental work, you may have a bleeding disorder such as von Willebrand Disease. This is not the same as very heavy menstrual bleeding, but it can be an underlying cause. It can be diagnosed at the Hemophilia Treatment Center, and it can be treated. Call the National Hemophilia Foundation at 800-424-2634, extension 3051, to find the Hemophilia Treatment Center nearest you.

Return to Common Uterine Conditions & Treatment Options

Reprinted from the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR)

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