Controlling Periods

IUD helped with overly heavy menstrual bleeding

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Rollercoaster emotions and moods can both be problems during a woman's period. Heavy flows can make it worse.

But a recently published study found that a certain kind of birth control inserted into a woman's body could help ease heavy bleeding.

Researchers said the findings showed how this method can help with more than just preventing unwanted pregnancies and normalizing a woman's cycle.

"Talk to your MD about birth control."

The aim of the study, led by Janesh Gupta, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Birmingham in the UK, was to see how well an intrauterine device (IUD) - commonly known as Mirena - helped women with menorrhagia, or extremely heavy periods that can last longer than normal.

IUDs are T-shaped devices inserted into a woman's uterus to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Some release hormones over time, such as levonorgestrel, found in Mirena.

The study was conducted over a two-year span at the University of Birmingham Clinical Trials Unit and included 571 women across the UK with heavier than normal periods. The women were between 25 and 50 years of age and had had at least three extremely heavy periods in a row.

Women who planned on getting pregnant, bled between periods or were on hormone-replacement therapy were excluded from the study.

Half of the women were assigned to use the hormonal IUD while the rest used some other birth control method, including the birth control pill. The participants were able to choose their treatments within their respective categories after discussing the options with their doctors.

Treatments could be changed as long as they remained in their category during the course of the study.

Researchers measured how heavy periods affected different aspects of the women's lives, including physical health, psychological health, social and family life, and work and daily routines.

They also tracked whether patients needed surgery in addition to their method of birth control to treat symptoms and how each patient felt about their sex lives and quality of life in general.

Six months after starting the birth control methods, menstrual symptoms improved in both groups.

The quality of sexual activity and the number of patients needing surgery to treat menorrhagia were both about the same.

"We expected fewer surgical interventions in the le­vo­nor­ges­trel­ IUD group, but rates were similarly low in the two groups," researchers wrote in their report.

"This finding may reflect the eligibility criteria for the trial, since women who had fibroids or other disorders were excluded."

The IUD group continued to have significantly better long-term results over the course of the study compared to those using other methods. The quality of life among those who had surgery remained the same.

In addition, women using IUDs reported better social, family and work lives compared to the other group. They also had greater psychological well-being and physical health.

Sixty-four percent of women assigned to the hormonal IUD were still using it by the two-year mark compared to 38 percent who used traditional methods.

"While the interventions studied in this trial represent options available in primary care settings in the UK, insertion of IUDs is not part of primary care in all healthcare settings, and in some circumstances requires gynecologist consultation," Dr. Gupta said in a press release.

"This trial should encourage the use of IUDs in primary care."

A number of patients changed treatments during the study, researchers noted, which may have underestimated results.

The study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research Technology Assessment Program, was published January 10 in the New England Journal of Medicine

One of the authors received payments, royalties and lecture fees from various companies, including Hodder Arnold Publishing, Ethicon Gynecare, Femcare­Nikomed, United King­dom National Health Service and Lincolnshire Police Force.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 10, 2013
Last Updated:
February 1, 2013