Hormone therapy for heavy periods
Hormone therapy e.g. the contraceptive pill, injection or a coil is often the GP’s first choice of treatment for heavy periods (menorrhagia). The oestrogen and/or progestin (the pharmaceutical replacement for progesterone) in them makes your womb lining (endometrium) thinner, so reducing heavy bleeding during your period. Contraceptive pills are taken by mouth daily, an injection is needed every 12 weeks, while the coil will need to be inserted by a GP or specialist nurse.
Hormone therapy isn’t right for everyone. Half of those women taking the Pill still suffer heavy periods, some women also experience unpleasant side effects and others don’t like the idea of taking hormones. Breakthrough bleeding (bleeding between periods) during treatment is a common reason why most women stop taking them. However, hormone therapy is the right solution for some and has the benefit of being reversible as well as providing contraception. It’s worth being aware that your heavy periods will return if you stop taking hormone therapy.
The impact of hormones on your body
Hormones can affect your body in a number of different ways. Even those that occur naturally can make us moody, emotional and grumpy around our periods! For some women, the use of hormone therapy actually reduces these for others it’s the opposite. One moment, you’re are walking through the shop looking for something to have with your coffee and the next you’re having a strop because your favourite biscuits are ‘temporarily unavailable’. It is not just your mood that is affected either. Changing hormones can also cause you to have less interest in sex and cause various physical symptoms such as:
- Breakthrough bleeding (bleeding between periods)
- Painful breasts
- Weight gain
What if hormone therapy doesn’t work for me?
While hormone therapy works for around half the women who take, it doesn’t work for everyone. This may be because of what’s causing your heavy periods or that it’s simply not right for you. Fortunately, there are other treatments available e.g. non-hormonal therapy, fibroid and polyp removal, endometrial ablation and hysterectomy. An overview of available treatments including a list of pros and cons can be found on the treatments page. This will help you weigh up each option and think about what is right for you. You should then make an appointment with your GP to discuss the options. You can find information on how to get the most from your appointment in the Talking to Your GP page.