“So many women unnecessarily put up with their heavy menstrual bleeding”

Cardiorespiratory physiotherapist and mother-to-two, Kate, 39, Brisbane, wrestled with heavy menstrual bleeding (HMB) symptoms for four years, which resulted in severe anaemia, and compromised her mental health.

HMB is a treatable medical condition involving abnormally heavy, or long menstrual periods.1 In Australia, HMB is defined as excessive blood loss during a period that affect’s a person’s physical, emotional, social, and daily activities.2,3

A year after the birth of her second child Lucy, at age 35, Kate began to experience debilitating periods, which caused severe anaemia and fatigue, and rendered her ‘cognitively fuzzy’ and not herself for the ensuing four years.

Her periods were extremely heavy each month, which left her feeling exhausted for the remainder of the month, even when she wasn’t menstruating.

Before seeking medical advice, Kate felt like she was losing her mind. She began to feel overwhelmed both at work and at home, and started to question why she wasn’t coping.

For some time, Kate mistakenly regarded her heavy periods to be normal, given her age, and the fact she was likely approaching early menopause.

Concerned about her health and wellbeing, this year Kate finally chose to visit her general practitioner (GP) for medical advice. She also met with her trusted obstetrician and gynaecologist, who delivered both of her babies, and was subsequently diagnosed with HMB.

After discussing treatment options with her obstetrician and gynaecologist, she settled on a treatment that best suited her. Shortly after, Kate noticed a drastic change to her emotional wellbeing.

Today, Kate is urging other women who too, may be wrestling silently with the symptoms of HMB, to see their doctor, and secure both an accurate diagnosis, and effective treatment, without delay.

Kate has chosen to share her story, to raise community awareness of HMB, and to encourage women, and girls nationwide, to prioritise their personal health.

10 February 2024

This is Kate’s story.

Kate always had light periods, even after giving birth to her first child, Billy. However, following the birth of her second child, Lucy, Kate developed HMB.

“I was an extremely active person before children. But after I gave birth to my second child, and having to endure HMB every month, I barely had any time for myself, let alone time or energy to exercise.

“I put up with HMB for three years, mistakenly thinking it was part of my body changing, and simply being a woman,” said Kate.

“I was changing my sanitary products every two hours, and sometimes more. I’m environmentally conscious, but it was hard to manage with a menstrual cup because the blood loss was just too great.

“Severe anaemia was my biggest challenge, because I was exhausted all of the time, and had less patience for people, including members of my family,” Kate said.

As a healthcare professional, Kate was aware of HMB, but never suspected it would happen to her, because she had always had light periods, and had never anticipated her body would change so much over time.

“I spoke with my work colleagues about my HMB and was really shocked by the number of women who thought it was normal to be bleeding all of the time,” said Kate.

“I didn’t have time for friends, or family living with HMB. I was in survival mode – I just didn’t feel like myself.”

Her role as a physiotherapist, nonetheless, finally led her to conclude that she needed medical advice.

“It was one of the hardest times of my life. My periods never got better; everyday tasks became insurmountable; and I suspected that should I choose not to act my condition would only get worse.

“I was so relieved to receive a diagnosis of HMB. It was comforting to have confirmation that it all wasn’t just in my head,” Kate said.

“I was anxious and on edge constantly for years during my period, and I knew my situation wasn’t sustainable”.

“With each period I had to ensure I was wearing period-appropriate clothing, and had an extra change of clothes, just in case I experienced a leak,” said Kate.

“Socially, I started to go out less and less. Instead of going out with my family, we ended up staying at home most of the time because I was constantly tired.”

Kate’s HMB symptoms left her feeling depleted, and compromised her quality of life. It wasn’t until the fatigue from her severe anaemia started to affect her mentally, that she finally chose to visit her GP.

According to Kate, there’s “a massive stigma around period health”.

“People still believe it’s an unhygienic topic that we shouldn’t really talk about. It often makes men, and even women, very uncomfortable.”

Fortunately, Kate finally found an effective treatment for her HMB, and now has a new lease on life. Today, she is wishing to inform other women, who too, may be “suffering in silence”, that effective treatments are available.

“So many women unnecessarily put up with their HMB because they think it’s a normal part of being a woman and are not aware of available treatment options.

“Importantly, women need to recognise there are effective treatment options available today. Visit your GP, explain your HMB symptoms, and ask about treatment options best suited to you,” Kate said.