Women’s rights group Plan International and Bodyform has teamed up with The Self EsteemTeam to kickstart a campaign to get people talking about menstruation - called #aboutbloodytime. Supermodel Natalia Vodianova is also behind another campaign – Let’s Talk About It. Period. She has invested in a period-tracking app FLO. Natalia spoke to Vogue and explained: “It’s a community of over 10 million women that are able to be completely anonymous and therefore feel more open when talking about periods. You can say whatever you want and you’re not going to be laughed at or told you’re weird.”
The model, who has been pregnant five times commented:
"I was born in the Soviet Union and we didn’t talk about sex – I never went to a gynaecologist before I got pregnant."
So many women sit and suffer in silence when it comes to periods. NHS GPs often have to prioritise other health issues above problem periods.
This means a lot of women end up not getting the treatment they very much need.
The taboo surrounding the subject of periods means women may not realise there are options available for women who require help with menstrual issues.
It would make sense for periods to get lighter in the run-up to menopause. However, as most women in their 40s will report, this isn’t usually the case, with monthly bleeding becoming heavier and more frequent. In the old days, a hysterectomy was the only option to stop the misery of heavy periods – this required weeks, sometimes months out of action. Fortunately, the latest gynaecological techniques mean there are minimally-invasive ways to make periods lighter – and even stop. These can be carried out without general anaesthetic and in treatment rooms. These techniques are sometimes referred to as ‘Office Gynaecology’, and do not require general anaesthetic, and avoid post-operative problems. As local anaesthetic is used, discomfort is minimal.
Office gynaecology includes hysteroscopic resection — removal of fibroids or polyps from the womb and endometrial ablation – removal of the womb’s lining to treat heavy periods.
A hysteroscopy is where a small camera is inserted into the womb. If fibroids and polyps are identified then these can be gently removed with the MyoSure system – avoiding disrupting the delicate tissue and without the need for cuts or scars. The procedure is done within minutes, and patients are usually able to walk out of the clinic and resume usual activities.
An ablation is an alternative to hysterectomy which works by removing the womb lining. The NovaSure Endometrial Ablation uses precisely measured radio frequency energy. However, it is only for women who have no wish to become pregnant, and it is not a sterilisation procedure, so you will still need to use contraception. It takes an average of 90 seconds and a maximum of 120 seconds to perform. You don’t have to worry if you have your period at the time of the procedure and most people find that they can walk out of the clinic straight afterwards.
When periods stop
Apart from the obvious things – like pregnancy and menopause – there are certain conditions that cause periods to stop (referred to as amenorrhoea), such Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Your gynaecologist will thoroughly examine you and run blood tests to see whether PCOS is potentially to blame for your missing period, and be able to advise management or treatment. Other issues connected with amenorrhoea are stress, exercising too frequently and eating disorders. Even so called ‘clean-eating’ or orthorexia – when people eat a very restricted diet and cut out certain food groups - can cause periods to go awry. Nutritionist and eating disorders specialist Stephanie Moore said: “Orthorexics may not be under weight, they are willing to eat regular meals but are often greatly restricting quantities of certain food types, such as starchy carbohydrates and/or fats.
“Orthorexics may have a low body weight / BMI, but not low enough to be considered dangerous. However, malnutrition may become a problem, and disturb menstrual function.”
Painful periods may be caused by fibroids. However, endometriosis is a common reason (when the lining of the uterus is found outside of the uterus on the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, bladder, pelvic floor, and even in other parts of the body). Although there is no established cure for endometriosis, many women find certain techniques can be successful at managing these problems. Our gynaecology team offers treatment for endometriosis:
Treatment for endometriosis
This may include:
- Contraceptive pill
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogues (GnRH analogues)
- A levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system (LNG-IUS)
- Surgical treatment for endometriosis such as laparoscopic excision of endometriosis tissue or endometriosis nodules
Other conditions include adenomyosis (similar to endometriosis, but with the added complication that the tissue implants its self in the muscle) or problems with the copper IUD. Your gynaecologist will also check for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease by swabbing. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is caused by a variety of bacteria and can usually be treated by antibiotics. However, it is important that it is attended to swiftly, so make sure you seek medical help. Your gynaecologist will also be able to scan your uterus and check there is no structural issue that is causing the pain.
Periods that stop and start can be caused by fibroids, PCOS, stress and over-dieting and contraceptive methods such as IUDs. You should discuss these with your GP or gynaecologist to get the best diagnosis – and naturally you should check for pregnancy and menopause. Periods can also become irregular as a result of certain illnesses, such as undiagnosed diabetes, an overactive thyroid, heart problems or premature ovarian failure.