It’s thought that one in 20 women between the ages of 30-49 see their GP on account of experiencing heavy periods , and quite aside from the fact that heavy bleeding (medically termed menorrhagia ) is debilitating, life limiting and very often painful to boot, heavy periods can be an indicator of conditions such as endometriosis and PCOS , pelvic inflammatory disease, thyroid dysfunction, fibroids and more rarely blood clotting disorders and gynaecological cancers . That’s not to mention the increased risk of anaemia and the fact that even doubling up on sanitary protection often doesn’t prevent leakage. Nailing a pitch is pretty tricky when you already feel weak and fatigued, then your period makes a dramatic boardroom appearance. All in all, it’s crappy, but new National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines issued this week aim to improve the diagnosis, and therefore experience and treatment, for the nigh on 25 per cent of women of reproductive age who suffer with heavy periods. Excuse our French, but about bloody time.
The new clinical guidelines recommend a hysteroscopy as a first-line diagnostic test, as opposed to less accurate ultrasound screening or a ‘wait it out’ approach. A hysteroscopy procedure involves the use of a very small, narrow telescope with a light and camera on the end that examines the womb, and women undergoing the test are very often given oral painkillers pre-procedure to make it as painless as possible. The update to the current guidelines reflects advances in diagnostic techniques, and NICE estimates that the change will lead to at least 10,000 more women in the UK having a hysteroscopy procedure- currently only 5000 women are offered it. It makes sense from an NHS budget point of view too, as Professor Mark Baker, director of the centre for guidelines at NICE, states:
“The cost of additional hysteroscopy will be offset by savings from fewer ultrasound investigations and fewer appointments following the diagnostic test.”
Offering women more reliable tests from the get-go is a step towards improving quality of life and putting women’s health firmly on the agenda- considering that the average time it takes to receive a diagnosis for endometriosis is seven and a half years, despite the fact that 10 per cent of women worldwide suffer from it, is an indicator that change can’t come fast enough in this department.