If you have very heavy periods, they can be a severe disruption to your life. After your ob/gyn has ruled out cancer, he or she may consider performing an endometrial ablation. This procedure involves destroying the lining tissues of the uterus with the goal of stopping or reducing your periods.
As with any procedure, you'll want to weigh the pros and cons before deciding if it's right for you:
- The recovery time is relatively quick. The procedure is sometimes done with a local anesthetic and sometimes under general anesthesia in a surgical location. Either way, recovery time is minimal. You can usually go home and rest the same day. You may have some mild symptoms such as cramping or vaginal discharge. In a few days to about two weeks, you should be back to normal.
- It's less involved than some other alternatives. A hysterectomy can sometimes be used to stop heavy periods, but it's more involved, requires more recovery time, and is more expensive.
- It's usually effective. After having an endometrial ablation, most women will stop having periods completely or will have much lighter periods. It's often used if medication has been tried and failed to be effective. Success and satisfaction rates are usually about 90 percent after the procedure.
- Pregnancy becomes risky afterward. If you want to have children in the future, endometrial ablation isn't the right choice for you. It's possible to get pregnant after having the procedure done, so you'll still need to use birth control, but it's unlikely. If you do become pregnant, you have a high risk of suffering a miscarriage or other complications.
- The results may be temporary. Even if your surgery is successful, the results may not last forever. Some women report that their periods return after a year or two or get heavier over time. This is more common in younger women.
- You may have risk factors that complicate things. This procedure isn't recommended if you are at high risk for developing endometrial cancer, because it could mask signs of the disease. Risk factors include being older, being obese, never having been pregnant, having diabetes, having polycystic ovary syndrome, or taking the drug tamoxifen for breast cancer. Talk with your doctor about any risk factors you may have.
- Problems can occur. With any procedure, the potential risks should be weighed against the rewards. Problems that can occur include accidental perforation or burning of the uterus, buildup of fluid in the lungs, or burns to the surface of the bowel. These complications are rare, but can serious.
Talk to an ob/gyn at a clinic like Tri-County Women's Health Care about the procedure and ask any questions you may have. He or she can help you decide if endometrial ablation or another treatment would be the best choice in your particular case.