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Endometrial ablation

This section contains answers to frequently asked questions about this topic. Questions have been suggested by health professionals, website feedback and requests via email.

How do I know if my periods are heavy?

Answer

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.

Explanation

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.

Can heavy periods come back after endometrial ablation and, if so, what are my treatment options?

Answer

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.

Explanation

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.

Can anyone have endometrial ablation?

Answer

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.

Explanation

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:

  • your periods are having a severe impact on your quality of life
  • other treatments haven't worked
  • you aren’t planning to have children
  • your womb is the right size and shape and doesn’t have fibroids

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:

  • your womb is small, or the wall of your womb is thin for any reason, such as if you have had previous caesarean sections or other operations
  • you have been taking hormone treatments before the procedure
  • you have had infections in your womb or pelvis in the past
  • you have severe endometriosis with adhesions between your bowel and your womb

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.

For our main content on this topic, see Information.

For sources and links to further information, see Resources.

Need more information?

How can we help you?

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We can help you detect any problems early with our Complete Health Assessment which involves up to 32 individual tests including breast and cervical checks for women or call 0845 600 3458 quoting ref. HFS100.

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Male and female doctors make up Bupa's team of highly experienced GPs with all the empathetic qualities you'd expect. Book to see a Private GP today or call 0845 600 3458 quoting ref. HFS GP.


  • This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended only for general information and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the about our health information page.

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