What can I do about prolonged menstrual bleeding?

Normal days of menstrual flow vary, and anything between two and seven days is considered regular. If a woman has prolonged menstrual bleeding, the "period" part of the cycle is longer than seven days, and the flow may be heavy or light. From time to time, any woman can experience an eighth or even ninth day of menstrual bleeding, and one or two occurrences of this in a lifetime are not indicative of problems. On the other hand, if prolonged menstrual flow occurs frequently, women should seek the advice of a doctor.

There are certain benign things that result in prolonged menstrual bleeding. These include the use of a large amount of aspirin during periods. Women who have the non-hormonal type of IUD may also experience this symptom regularly. Miscarriage early in pregnancy can also lead to a prolonged period. Also, as women approach menopause, some may experience longer periods than normal.

A consistent history of prolonged menstrual bleeding usually means that a doctor will run several tests to rule out certain things that are more serious. In addition to taking a medical history to determine exactly how long periods last, doctors will likely perform a gynecological exam and Pap smear. They may order an ultrasound to check for abnormalities in the uterus, such as endometriosis or fibroids, and want to check for uterine cancer. It is not uncommon for doctors to also do blood tests to look at blood counts, hormone levels, and thyroid function, as low thyroid levels can cause this condition.

Not much can be done about prolonged menstrual bleeding until an accurate diagnosis is made. For a woman with an IUD, the simple solution might be to remove the device and possibly switch to a progestin-releasing type that tends to reduce period length. If no tests indicate medical problems, one of the common methods of treating this condition is with hormonal treatment, which can regulate the cycle. This may not be advisable for a perfectly healthy woman who is clearly premenopausal. In fact, as long as there is no underlying cause that needs treatment, and the discharge is not creating problems like anemia or general inconvenience, no treatment can be recommended.

In some cases, prolonged menstrual bleeding is symptomatic of larger problems, such as the presence of fibroids, endometriosis, or cancerous or precancerous conditions in the cervix or uterus. In these cases, these conditions can be treated by a variety of methods. The most aggressive treatment is to remove the uterus surgically, and the least aggressive might be to take a wait-and-see approach, which is used especially with small fibroids. Any precancerous condition could not be treated with hormones, as this can cause cancer growth.

Since this condition has many causes, the best thing to do with prolonged menstrual bleeding that occurs regularly is to seek medical attention. It is impossible to say what, from an individual perspective, is right for each person. The matter is best handled with the care and diagnosis of a medical expert.

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