If you suffer from heavy periods and above-average blood loss -- more than 2 or 3 tablespoons -- you don't have to just grin and bear it. There are ways to reduce that heavy flow, including hormonal birth control like the mini-pill or an IUD. But if you don't want to or don't need to use hormones to regulate your cycle, or you've tried and they just don't work, a procedure called endometrial ablation may be worth considering.
What is Endometrial Ablation?
This procedure removes a layer of the uterine lining, which can slow or stop menstrual flow in many women. It's generally done under local anesthesia or light sedation, which means you can have it done at your doctor's office and go right home.
There are different methods of removing or destroying the uterine lining, with most involving heat. In most cases, your doctor will use a hysteroscope to access your uterus, then insert a probe that uses heat to remove the lining.
In another type of procedure, a balloon is gently inserted into the uterus and then filled with heated fluid. The balloon expands to touch the edges of the uterus and the endometrium, or top layer, is destroyed. Other methods include using lasers or freezing the lining.
After endometrial ablation, some women experience cramping like they would with a regular period and discharge for 2 to 3 days. You may also need to urinate frequently for about a day and have some nausea. Other side effects are rare.
Is Endometrial Ablation Right For You?
If you can't get your heavy menstrual flow under control any other way, endometrial ablation may be your last, best hope. Here are three reasons why it might be a good fit for you.
1. You've ruled out uterine fibroids for the bleeding. Some women have fibroids, or benign growths, inside the uterus that can produce heavy bleeding. Sometimes these fibroids can be pretty small, and then start to grow rapidly. While they are not cancerous, they should be treated with medication to shrink them or surgically removed.
2. You're done having kids. While the procedure does not make you sterile, and you'll still need to use birth control, the chance of miscarriage is highly increased because the fetus will not be able to implant into the uterine lining. For this reason, some doctors may recommend that you have a permanent form of birth control, like tubal ligation, to ensure you don't become pregnant.
3. You're over 40. In younger women, studies have shown that endometrial ablation can increase your risk of needing a hysterectomy within 8 years. However, many of these studies were done more than 20 years ago, when the procedure first became widespread. Techniques and technologies have improved, and your risk may not be high for hysterectomy. Talk to your doctor about the risks.
Endometrial ablation can also help you if you bleed so much that you suffer from anemia, or iron deficiency. While there are side effects, the procedure is relatively quick and easy. Consult with a local gynecologist, such as Rawtani Meera MD, to determine if it would be a good solution for you.