How women would like to manage heavy periods

According to a new online survey of women with heavy periods, women have strong opinions about what they want – and what they don't want to do – to manage their heavy periods. Even though hormonal therapy, such as birth control pills, is one of the most frequently prescribed treatments, more than 65 percent of women surveyed said they want to avoid taking hormones1, and 60 percent agree that they would prefer not to take a pill on a daily basis for this condition2.

"Birth control pills can be an effective first-line treatment for heavy menstrual periods. However, it is important to remember that they are not appropriate for everyone," said Kathryn Pruzinksky, M.D., University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. "Women and their doctors need to expand their dialogues beyond hormonal therapies when discussing treatment."

Clinically known as menorrhagia (pronounced men-or-ah-jah), heavy periods so debilitating that they interfere with normal activities plague as many as 22 percent of otherwise healthy premenopausal women over age 353. While a period typically lasts four to five days4, and the average amount of blood loss is 60 to 250 milliliters per cycle, women with heavy periods will lose 10 to 25 times that amount5.

According to the women surveyed, physicians are most likely to propose hormonal treatments, such as birth control pills, or a dilation and curettage (D&C)6. Although a common treatment, D&C provides only temporary relief of heavy bleeding7. The women surveyed reveal that as many as one in five physicians have recommended a hysterectomy as treatment for menorrhagia. Of the more than 600,000 hysterectomies performed in 1999 alone, more than one-third of them were to treat fibroids and heavy uterine bleeding8.

What Women Don't Want When It Comes to Treating Heavy Periods

The women surveyed expressed hesitation and concern about the main treatment options recommended, including hormonal therapy (such as birth control pills) and more invasive procedures like hysterectomy9.

A relatively new procedure, endometrial ablation, a non-hormonal option that does not entail removal of the uterus like a hysterectomy, is proposed by less than 15 percent of doctors10. This incisionless surgical technique uses one of a variety of methods – laser, heat or freezing – to remove the endometrial lining of the uterus. For example, one endometrial ablation procedure called uterine balloon therapy uses a balloon filled with hot liquid to ablate the lining of the uterus and reduce bleeding. Recovery is fast and many women return to their normal activities the next day.

What Women Say They Want When Coping With Heavy Periods

The survey of 400 women who self identified as having heavy periods revealed that heavy bleeding is not the only life-impacting side effect of this condition – 75 percent of sufferers also experience at least one of the following: mood swings, cramps/pain, fatigue, bloating or tenderness11. In fact, at least one third of sufferers become anemic during their periods12.

Despite other side effects, heavy bleeding is what causes staining, one of the most embarrassing and frustrating aspects of living with menorrhagia. Nine out of 10 women surveyed cope by avoiding whites and wearing darks as well as staying away from thin or silky fabrics13. More than half admit to wearing long shirts, wrapping shirts around their waists or even carrying a change of underwear or clothing14. Four out of every 10 women said they have purposely not bought an article of clothing, because they knew they couldn't wear it during their periods15.

About Treatment with GYNECARE THERMACHOICE® Uterine Balloon Therapy System

GYNECARE THERMACHOICE® Uterine Balloon Therapy System is a minimally-invasive treatment developed to reduce excessive menstrual bleeding in women who are having heavy periods due to benign (non-cancerous) causes.

GYNECARE THERMACHOICE® uses heat to treat the endometrium (the lining of the uterus), and can be performed on an outpatient basis. It requires no incision, takes about 30 minutes, is simple, minimally invasive and can be performed under local anesthesia. Unlike a hysterectomy, GYNECARE THERMACHOICE® allows a woman to preserve her uterus.

GYNECARE THERMACHOICE® is also effective. Following treatment with GYNECARE THERMACHOICE®, most women can expect light to moderate periods, or possibly no periods at all. Ninety-three percent of women who have had the procedure are still happy with their results after five years.* To date, more than 300,000 women worldwide have been treated with GYNECARE THERMACHOICE®. The treatment is recommended for women who have completed their childbearing.

About the Survey

Results are from a web-based survey of 400 women ages 35-49 who self identified as having heavy periods. The margin of error is +/- 4.9 percent. This means that for any given percentage within the report, the true percentage range is within +/- 4.9% of that actually reported. Interviews were completed between February 26 and March 2, 2004.

On average, the women surveyed for this study are just over 41 years of age, on average. Most are white, married and have at least some college education. Additionally, most of these women are employed, with more likely to be employed full time. The average household income is approximately $60,000.

About Gynecare

Gynecare is a global health care company currently offering less-invasive options for the treatment of abnormal uterine bleeding, fibroids, adhesions and female urinary incontinence. Gynecare is a division of Ethicon, Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company.

For more information about treating heavy periods and GYNECARE Uterine Balloon Therapy System, visit

* Based on the patients available for follow-up.

  • 1 Web-based survey, Women's Menstrual Issues Report,  March 2004, page 11.
  • 2  Ibid.
  • 3 Munro, Malcolm G., M.D., The Journal of the American Association of Gynecological Laproscopists, Endometrial Ablation with a Thermal Balloon: The First Ten Years,  page 81.
  • 4, Menorrhagia, page 1.
  • 5 Ibid.
  • 6 Web-based survey, Women's Menstrual Issues Report, March 2004, page 13.
  • 7 APGO educational series, Clinical Management of Abnormal Uterine Bleeding, 2002, page 1.
  • 8 Bren, Linda,, Alternatives to Hysterectomy: New Technologies, More Options, page 1.
  • 9 Web-based survey, Women's Menstrual Issues Report, March 2004, page 11.
  • 10 Web-based survey, Women's Menstrual Issues Report, March 2004, page 13.
  • 11 Web-based survey, Women's Menstrual Issues Report, March 2004, page 8.
  • 12 Cote, Isabelle, PhD, Philip Jacobs, Dphil and David Cumming, MBChB, FRCOG, FRCSC, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Use of health services associated with increased menstrual loss in the United States, page 343.
  • 13 Web-based survey, Women's Menstrual Issues Report,  March 2004, page 10.
  • 14 Ibid.
  • 15 Ibid.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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