Are you one of the millions of American women with heavy periods? If your heavy periods are accompanied by debilitating cramps, excess fatigue, nausea, and other troublesome effects, there could be an underlying medical condition triggering your symptoms.
More than 200 million women worldwide suffer from endometriosis, a condition that could be at the root of your heavy periods and other symptoms. At Progressive Women’s Health in Friendswood, Texas, board-certified OB/GYN Asia Mohsin, MD, and our team specialize in diagnosing and treating heavy periods and other gynecological conditions, such as endometriosis.
In this blog, Dr. Mohsin explains what endometriosis is and how it can cause heavy periods.
As your uterus prepares for the implantation of a fertilized egg each month, the endometrial tissue inside your uterus thickens. If you don’t get pregnant, you get your period as this lining sheds. At the end of your period, the cycle of thickening begins again.
For women with endometriosis, however, endometrial tissue starts growing outside of the uterus, in places like the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and intestines. And, each month the body tries to shed this tissue just as it sheds the endometrial tissue in the uterus.
However, the tissue outside of the uterus has nowhere to go, which can cause irritation and lead to lesions in the affected areas. As the condition progresses, this can result in scar tissue, ovarian cysts, and adhesions.
Heavy periods can be a sign of a number of conditions, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), diabetes, Cushing syndrome, thyroid disorders, uterine fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and more.
However, if your heavy periods are accompanied by other signs of endometriosis, chances increase that the root cause of the heavy bleeding is endometriosis. Signs to look for include:
Over time, endometriosis frequently causes difficulty with conception, making it one of the top causes of infertility in women. In fact, about half of women with moderate-to-severe endometriosis struggle to conceive.
While Dr. Mohsin often relies on symptoms to make a diagnosis, the only way to know for sure you have endometriosis is with exploratory surgery, since it can’t be seen through a pelvic exam.
Yes. If you have endometriosis, your treatment will depend on the stage of the condition and the severity of your symptoms.
When endometriosis is mild, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, may be enough to manage your pain. In addition, making lifestyle changes, such as eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and learning stress management and relaxation techniques, may also help with symptoms.
For early-stage moderate endometriosis, using different birth control methods, such as an IUD, may also be helpful in managing symptoms and slowing the development of endometrial implants and adhesions. In this way, they may also offer some protection against infertility.
For advancing cases of endometriosis that impact your ability to become pregnant, Dr. Mohsin may recommend a medication that halts ovulation and menstruation in an effort to stop the progression of the disease.
This medicine, called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist, can help protect your fertility, and once the treatment is complete, your menstrual cycle will resume and your chances of becoming pregnant may be higher.
For some women with severe endometriosis, Dr. Mohsin may recommend surgery. The goal of these minimally invasive surgeries is to remove the problematic endometrial tissue and adhesions to make it easier to become pregnant.