Not long after she turned 45, Felicia Schaps' menstrual cycles began ruling her life. As her bleeding became progressively heavier, she avoided long car rides, swimming and wearing dresses. Eventually, her condition began to interfere with her nursing job, which required home visits to patients. "If one of my patients needed to be seen for a long time, I tried to get someone to substitute for me because I was afraid of bleeding on their furniture," she recalls. "Many times I bled in my car. The final straw was when my husband had to bring a change of clothes to me at work."
Schaps' gynecologist initially recommended a hysterectomy. Not ready for such a drastic measure, she sought a second opinion from Jane E. Piness, MD, an OB/GYN at Virginia Hospital Center.
As an alternative, Dr. Piness recommended endometrial ablation, a minimally invasive procedure for women who are past childbearing years. In preparation for this procedure, the uterus is examined for fibroids or polyps, which, if present, are removed. A soft, flexible balloon is then inserted into the uterine cavity through the vagina, inflated with water and heated to 187 degrees to seal the uterine lining. Afterward, the treated lining sloughs off like a period over the next seven days.
Endometrial ablation is available on an outpatient basis and takes only 30 minutes from start to finish. Because no incision is required, recovery is fast and patients are usually able to resume normal activities within a couple days. The procedure has been shown to reduce menstrual flow by an average of 86%, and in some cases, to stop bleeding altogether. For Schaps, the treatment was life changing.
Excessive menstrual bleeding, or menorrhagia, affects more than 10 million women and can be accompanied by anemia, fatigue, cramping and back pain. The condition may stem from uterine fibroids or other benign lesions, although most often its cause is unknown. "This problem is very common - particularly among premenopausal women in their forties. Many resign themselves to living with the discomfort and embarrassment, not realizing there are solutions," says Dr. Piness.
If your cycles are characterized by unusually heavy or prolonged bleeding for more than seven days, talk to your doctor about treatment options. If you need a physician use our Online Physician Directory