When it comes to periods, who really knows what normal means? It’s not something you talk about with your friends, unless it’s an embarrassing story or a light hearted complaint. And what should you do when your period is so heavy that it starts to interfere with your life?
I am one of the “1 in 20 women who consulted their GP about heavy menstrual bleeding” after years of suffering in silence.
My first period lasted 12 days. As I got older it got heavier until I was bleeding for 14 days every 28 days; half of every month.
The blood loss resulted in severe anaemia (where your body doesn’t contain enough healthy red blood cells), which caused fainting. The cause of my HMB wasn’t investigated, but I was offered some hormonal treatments to try and get the bleeding under control. They didn’t work, unfortunately, and I was left wondering what to try next.
Aside from the medical implications, HMB has caused me a great deal of embarrassment. I had to go to the toilet every hour to change my protection. I didn’t go swimming while bleeding for fear of leaking. I didn’t wear light coloured clothing, or nice underwear. I even avoided going out the house, because of the fatigue, pain and fear of bleeding through my clothes.
Eight years ago I decided to try the IUS device and I finally got my life back. I still live with HMB, with my period averaging 14 days that can go up to 22 days. However, the IUS has meant that blood loss is reduced and that I have control of my life: I can do what I want to do, wear what I want, and not worry about having to run to the toilet every hour. My HMB also lead to investigations that revealed I also suffer from endometriosis, which I am now being supported with.
I am excited to see that NICE has updated the guidelines on HMB. The guidelines emphasise the importance of talking to the woman about her needs and giving back control. They also recommend investigating the symptoms and cause of HMB so that women can find answers and select the right treatment for them.