You know the ones I mean; the ones that leave you changing your pads every hour, leaking through your clothes, experiencing indescribable exhaustion, and have you thinking this is all normal? Well, guess what? Periods like that are not normal and could be a sign of Heavy Menstrual Bleeding, the new internationally-accepted medical term for what I call “periods from hell.”  

HMB can be caused by uterine fibroids, non-cancerous tumours that can grow inside or outside the uterus and feed off the estrogen and progesterone we produce during our reproductive years.

One in three women of reproductive age has fibroids while one in two of us will have them by age 50. I was one of those women and stopped my periods from hell when I found a surgeon who could remove my fibroids without any painkillers.

One in three women of reproductive age has fibroids while one in two of us will have them by age 50.

Fibroids can lie dormant and cause no symptoms at all, while others can be extremely painful, grow to the size of a pea, an orange, or as large as a basketball. These tumours cause a myriad of mental, physical, emotional, financial, and sexual side effects.

Some include pain; pressure; extreme blood loss during menstruation; emergency blood transfusions; debilitating exhaustion; and potentially life-threatening anemia. It can also cause cognitive impairment such as memory loss and mental confusion; not to mention quality of life costs such as missed family and social engagements and perhaps worst of all, infertility.

Surgically speaking, fibroids account for more hysterectomies (the total removal of the uterus) in Canada than any other condition, more than doubling the number performed for gynecological cancers. Of the 50,000 hysterectomies that were performed in Canada in 2010, 33 percent were performed for fibroids, 15 percent were performed for gynecological cancers while only eight percent were performed for endometriosis.

Only the hysterectomies performed for cancer were “medically necessary”, meaning that benign conditions like HMB caused by fibroids could have been avoided in most cases through less expensive, less risky, less invasive, less painful means, such as new medication and state-of-the-art outpatient procedures that can remove your fibroids in as little as 90 seconds.

Improving quality of life

So what do you say, gals? If we, as women and as patients, demand that our fibroids be treated through less invasive means, we could improve the health, safety, and quality of life of women. We could get them back on their feet faster and with less pain, less risk, and fewer complications.

We could save millions of dollars in unnecessary surgeries and postoperative hospitalization due to complications. We could invest that money into research, public awareness, and prevention, as well as free up our precious operating rooms for those who really need them. As well, we could alter the way our society perceives and treats painful, heavy periods.

As amazing as it sounds, we may even increase our fertility rates, as many younger women — like my friend Shannon — who were previously told hysterectomy was their only treatment option are now able to conceive and have children as a result of an explosion in technology that can treat fibroids without a hysterectomy.

So here it is again, gals, if you have terribly heavy periods and are desperate for relief, explore your options and make the most informed choice possible for the treatment of your periods from hell, whether you choose a hysterectomy or not. The choice should be yours and no one has the right to take that away from you.