The secret to stopping heavy periods.
I knew there was a problem when I was making a late night run to Walgreens for pads. I knew there was a problem when the nurse called with my lab results. I could hear it in her voice, “The doctor is concerned about your lab work. You need to start an iron supplement since your levels are very low.”
Today, I realize how serious it sounds, but at the time I was thanking the Lord it was just menorrhagia (heavy periods) and not something more dire.
Menorrhagia as defined by the Mayo clinic “is the medical term for menstrual periods with abnormally heavy or prolonged bleeding.” And I experienced every.single.one of these symptoms.
Signs and symptoms may include:
- Soaking through one or more sanitary pads or tampons every hour for several consecutive hours
- Needing to use double sanitary protection to control your menstrual flow
- Needing to wake up to change sanitary protection during the night
- Bleeding for longer than a week
- Passing blood clots larger than a quarter
- Restricting daily activities due to heavy menstrual flow
- Symptoms of anemia, such as tiredness, fatigue or shortness of breath
Menstrual periods, though seemingly straightforward, vary from woman to woman. Some women go through stages of having their period every 2 to 3 weeks. While others may just have constant spotting. Whatever your issue is, your best bet is to contact your doctor and come up with a plan. This is my story and I hope it’s helpful to other women who are going through similar things.
When I first started getting the heavy periods in 2016, like afraid-to-leave-the-house heavy. Like I-should-have-bought-stock-in-Softcups because I would go through so many. I just chalked it up to being a woman. It would pass and life would continue. At my annual exam, my doctor recommended some form of hormonal birth control or an endometrial ablation to control the heavy periods. I elected to go on birth control because I was worried about the risks of the surgery plus I previously took birth control without a problem.
Well, this time my body wasn’t having it because my periods didn’t stop, and I felt sick all the time. Perfect. After two months of birth control, the bleeding finally stopped and I stopped the pill. Thinking, there is no way that I can get a period like that again. Oh boy was I wrong.
From May to July, I was having constant bleeding. Usually heavy, but it did slow down for a couple weeks before my ablation. It was one of the worst times of my life. I didn’t want to leave the house. My periods were so heavy and (TMI alert) filled with clots that I couldn’t figure out how my body was producing and losing so much blood.
FYI, Softcups were a life saver during all this heavy bleeding. Much more comfortable than any other feminine hygiene products I tried.
I, of course, called my doctor who ordered an ultrasound and blood work to make sure their wasn’t an underlining problem. My ultrasound was normal, but my blood work showed I was anemic which meant something had to be done.
The anemia was probably one of the hardest health problems I have had to overcome. The fatigue, lack of focus, and getting easily winded was horrible for someone who takes care of her children alone most of the time.
It was time for the ablation.
Endometrial Ablation and Recovery
An endometrial ablation is procedure that ablates (removes) the uterine lining using heat, freezing, laser, or radio waves, depending on the type of procedure your doctor performs. My doctor uses the Novasure procedure, which uses radio frequency energy.
Endometrial ablation was recommended for me because I am premenopausal, and I am done having children. It is not a sterilization procedure as you can still become pregnant, but your body can not carry the pregnancy since a fetus develops in the uterine lining. My husband had a vasectomy after our youngest was born so birth control was not a concern for us.
The ablation was an outpatient procedure. I checked into the hospital at 7:30 and was home by 1. I had no cramping or pain afterwards, and THE BLEEDING STOPPED!!! I did have some clear discharge because it is a burn so the body is healing itself. The actual ablation and recovery from the ablation was a breeze.
The recovery from the anemia was a bitch. My doctor said it would take 3-4 months for my body to rebuild my blood supply. Lots of rest. Lots of red meat and leafy greens. And a multi-vitamin. And she was right!! Around 3 months, I felt back to my old self. I could work out again. I wasn’t feeling winded all the time. My mind was able to focus again. The ablation was a success!
More info about anemia recovery.
The moral of the story
Because I was stubborn and cheap, I was afraid to take a more permanent solution. If I had just had the ablation in the first place I would have saved myself the trouble of going anemic and losing months of my life.
My family’s long term goal is to become debt-free and I was worried what the surgery would do to our financial situation. Yes, we added about 2,000 dollars to our overall debt, BUT because we have our budget and debt snowball already established, we were easily able to shift our money from our credit card to our medical bills. Having a plan really does help!!
At my post-op appointment, my doctor explained that it is possible my period might return but should get lighter and lighter as the months go by. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case for me. My period has been a bit all over the place. Some light spotting, a few heavy days, and no normal rhythm. However, I should note, I have always had irregular periods so that part is not unusual to me.
I had my annual exam plus blood work done and everything appears normal, which is great! My doctor suggested tracking my period to give them a better sense of the pattern, or lack thereof, my body is going through. When I get irritated at unpredictability of my situation, I remind myself of how far I have come. I recovered from anemia and the super heavy bleeding never returned. But the lesson from this experience is the same.
Taking care of yourself, mind, body, and spirit, is so important when you become a parent. You have others who are counting on you to be your best and be at your best! If you are facing a medical uncertainty, it may be easy to brush it off. Say, “Oh, I’ll be fine” or “I’ll call the doctor tomorrow.” But you can’t think like that! As Benjamin Franklin said; “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”