Do you have a heavy menstrual bleed? This is the case for Ashley, who since getting her period at 14 has battled, and continues to battle with an extremely heavy menstrual bleed. Abnormal heavy bleeding during menstruation is known as Menorrhagia.
Menorrhagia can cause severe disruption to everyday life and can impact sufferers both physically and emotionally. Here, Ashley shares her story.
Ashley’s Story of living with Menorrhagia
“I am 31, and for around 16 years I have experienced heavy menstrual bleeding. At the age of 26, I was officially diagnosed with menorrhagia. Even as recently as 7 years ago, I simply thought it was something women endured until menopause. I say endured because I’ve never experienced light or normal flow that hasn’t been chemically produced by the pill, the mini pill, the coil, the implant, Mefenamic acid or Tranexamic acid.
My periods began when I was 14. Pretty standard. A year later, I was at a party where I met someone. At the end of the evening, I turned my back to write my home number on a piece of paper for him, not realizing I had leaked through to the back of my skirt. This marked the beginning of HMB, but it didn’t occur to me to do anything except take full responsibility, put up with it and feel ashamed.”
The struggle of treatents…
“From the age of 18, I was prescribed Microgynon, Cilest and TXA. Microgynon produced unwanted side effects and irregular bleeding. Also, as I had suffered from migraines I was concerned about the associations with stroke. So, I was prescribed Cilest, because I was informed that it had slightly more estrogen in it, so would have less negative side effects.
During my time taking Cilest , I was impatient and suffered from mood swings, but attributed it to everything else but the drug. Tranexamic acid was the next stop. Primarily due to the fact that I was not in a relationship so wanted a break from the pill. TXA is a medication used to treat or prevent excessive blood loss from major trauma, postpartum bleeding, surgery, tooth removal, nose bleeds, and heavy menstruation. Suitable only for short-term use. (A maximum of 4 days per period, to be exact).
It got to the point, at least 8 years later, where the side effects of the pill/TXA outweighed any benefits.”
“I felt like I had lost touch with my body because it was shrouded in medication. Would I have had depression, painful spots, irregular bleeding, headaches or mood swings if I hadn’t taken anything? I will never know, and that’s a frightful truth to face when medication is the treatment.
In February 2007, I had a progesterone implant fitted in my upper arm, because of heavy 10-12 day periods. This was an option put forward by a male doctor. For two weeks I experienced nothing, then I bled continuously for 4 months. During and after the implant era I developed melasma on my forehead and had very brittle hair. This lasted for two years, despite having the implant removed after 4 months.”
A traumatic experience
“Huge blood clots during menstruation began in 2010, and it hasn’t stopped since. At the time I had been hormone-drug free for 3 years, so it seemed to appear from nowhere. One of the worst times was summer 2011; I am a nurse worked 12 hr shifts. While on shift, I felt the pains of my period. I quickly got to the bathroom, where I passed a clot the size of a fist. I had such bad cramping that I needed to leave work. When I got home, I took some painkillers and went to bed.
I thought i’d had a miscarriage…
I rang the doctor to say that I thought I had just had a miscarriage. I’d never passed anything so big and I was in severe pain and shock, scared, and had no idea what to do. The doctor told me it was unlikely that I had suffered a miscarriage, and that it was a shame I hadn’t kept the clot to bring back home for them to check. I will leave that for you to digest. He ordered blood work, but it came back clear; not even anaemia. I was so confused. I asked for a laparoscopy because I was at my wit’s end.”
17th October 2011 they performed the laparoscopy to investigate endometriosis. It didn’t show up, so they fitted me with a Mirena coil after the operation, because their conclusion was just heavy periods. I said yes to the coil because I was so doped up after the anaesthetic. The coil just made me bleed non-stop, I didn’t make a record of how long that lasted. I don’t think I managed more than a month before asking for it to be removed.
The search for a solution
After the birth of my two children (2013 and 2015), I had an ultrasound in 2016 followed by a Gynae examination in 2017: both procedures prompted by me. My periods seemed to be worse. I was still experiencing pelvic pain, the release of the egg during ovulation, passing heavy clots and 10-12 day periods. I also developed severe upper back pain and headaches, alongside sciatic pain. My periods seemed to be getting worse, not better. The ultrasound showed ovarian cysts and a fibroid, but no one seemed concerned. Even the gynae consultant declared an ‘unremarkable vaginal examination.’
My options were the pill, the coil, ablation or hysterectomy. Having experienced the first two I quickly declined but signed up for the ablation. I don’t want a hysterectomy. The ablation was something new to me. The consultant explained that it could stop periods altogether…or not. It could improve my day-to-day life…or put me at risk of an ectopic pregnancy if I accidentally became pregnant.
We are six months on, and although he’s booked me in for the ablation (I am desperate), it’s nowhere in sight. What frustrates me is that there is no follow up, support or guidance. I just hope that research continues to happen and that a miracle occurs before the operation.
A recent survey of women who have or who have had heavy bleeding found that due to heavy periods:
• 62% did not realise heavy periods are a medical condition
• 74% have experienced anxiety, 69% depression and 49% anaemia
• 72% said it affected their sex life
• 43% have missed work as a result of heavy periods
• 58% feel they are unable to carry out their usual daily routine
• 50% have never been to see a GP about heavy periods
You are not alone.