Menopause is called the big change for a reason, even though some women experience few symptoms. For others, one of the symptoms can be downright terrifying—and gross. It's called menopause flooding. Imagine, if you will, a faucet suddenly turning on, no matter where you are or what you are doing. Hopefully, if this happens to you, you won't be out in public. Here's what every women nearing the big change needs to know about menopause flooding.
The flow from menopause flooding can be heavy enough that it can immediately soak through your pad or tampon, if you are wearing one, of course. If you're not, you could easily look like a crime scene victim. What can make it worse, is that this sudden onslaught of menstrual flow can include large clots, which can be terrifying. The first time you have menopause flooding, it can make you feel like calling 911 as your mind reels from the experience.
CAUTION: If you become lightheaded, dizzy, or nauseous, DO call 911. You may be experiencing a hemorrhage, which is not the same thing as flooding.
In pre-perimenopause, a balance of estrogen and progesterone is essential in keeping things regulated. Estrogen stimulates the development of an egg, which is called ovulation. This, in turn, prepares the body for pregnancy by thickening the endometrium. Then, if the egg is not fertilized, progesterone thins the endometrium to cause it to shed, which results in menstrual bleeding.
During perimenopause, the number of eggs decreases, which causes ovulation to occur less frequently. This causes the body to produce more estrogen to try to bring on ovulation, while progesterone levels naturally decrease during perimenopause. An increase in estrogen causes a thicker growth of endometrium (the lining of the uterus) and, therefore, an extremely heavy menstrual flow. Clots occur due to the decrease in progesterone. Menopause flooding is when the thickened endometrium sheds suddenly.
Flooding can affect your life by causing you to never want to leave the confines of your home out of fear that you'll flood in public and be embarrassed. It can cause you to miss days of work and hinder your social plans and prevent you from running errands. If you do need to venture out, you'll need to be sure to keep a change of clothing and several feminine hygiene products with you at all times. You'll also want to be sure to know where the nearest restroom is at all times, just in case. Instead of dealing with flooding and the stress, consult with your gynecologist. There are treatments available so you can continue to live your life without worrying about the flood gates opening.
Your gynecologist will give you a thorough exam and go over your medical history with you. You can expect various tests to be run, such as a pregnancy test to rule out a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy, a pelvic ultrasound to rule out abnormalities such as fibroids and polyps, and blood tests to check for anemia and thyroid function. With the results of these tests, your gynecologist will determine a treatment plan for you.
Treatment can include surgical options of dilation and curettage, endometrial resection or ablation, or hysterectomy. Non-surgical options can be used to rebalance the fluctuating estrogen and progesterone levels that are causing the flooding. Non-surgical treatment options can involve the use of birth control pills, progesterone creams, IUDs, or oral progesterone tablets. It's also important to start taking an iron supplement, if you aren't taking one already, so you don't become anemic. Also, take an anti-prostaglandin, such as Ibuprofen, as it can decrease your menstrual flow.
Contact a gynecologist like George L Stankevych, MD for more information.