This section contains answers to frequently asked questions about this topic. Questions have been suggested by health professionals, website feedback and requests via email.
The amount of blood lost during a period is different for every woman. However, you may have heavy periods if you need to change your sanitary towel or tampon every one to two hours, if you have flooding or pass lots of heavy clots, or if your periods usually last longer than seven days.
During your period, bleeding usually lasts about three to five days, with the bleeding heaviest during the first two days. Sometimes a period can last up to eight days.
The amount of blood you lose during your period is usually only enough to fill about eight teaspoons or about 40 millilitres (ml). Doctors say that a heavy blood loss is 80ml or more, but in practice it's hard to measure the amount of blood you're losing. Instead, your periods are said to be heavy if they interfere with the quality of your day-to-day life and if you bleed heavily during every period.
If you have to change your tampon or sanitary towel every one to two hours, or if your period lasts for longer than seven days over several cycles, these are also signs of a heavy period.
Heavy periods can affect many aspects of your life and increase your risk of having anaemia (a condition where you don't have enough red blood cells to transport the oxygen around your body), making you feel tired and breathless.
If you think you have heavy periods, see your GP for advice.
It's possible that your heavy periods may come back after having endometrial ablation. You may be able to have the treatment again or your surgeon may suggest a different treatment – for example, a hysterectomy.
Endometrial ablation works by destroying the lining of your womb, the endometrium. This means your womb lining can't thicken during your menstrual cycle and so you have light periods or sometimes your periods may stop altogether. However, this treatment doesn't work for everyone and you may find that after your operation, your periods stay the same or are lighter to begin with but get heavier and longer as time goes on.
There are several different methods used to remove your womb lining, such as heated water, laser, an electric current, microwaves or radio waves. So, your surgeon may suggest having endometrial ablation again using a different method or repeating the procedure as before.
Having a hysterectomy is the only definite cure for heavy periods, but it has a higher risk of complications than endometrial ablation.
Endometrial ablation isn’t suitable for everyone. If you want to have children, you won't be offered this kind of surgery. If you have a small womb or large fibroids, or if you have had hormone treatments, multiple caesarean sections, severe endometriosis or a previous infection in your pelvis, you may not be able to have endometrial ablation.
Around three quarters of women who have endometrial ablation for heavy periods find that their symptoms improve and their periods become lighter. Around half have no periods at all after this kind of surgery.
Endometrial ablation is likely to be recommended if:
However, there are some conditions and circumstances when this kind of surgery may not be suitable for you. You may not be recommended endometrial ablation if:
If you're using an intrauterine system for contraception, or have a contraceptive ring or diaphragm inserted, you must have them removed before you have your operation.
Produced by Natalie Heaton, Bupa Health Information Team, September 2012.
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