“You don’t have to live with it”

Customer experience manager and mother-to-two, Yvonne, 49, Melbourne, has been battling heavy menstrual bleeding (HMB) symptoms since the age of 13.

Yvonne recalls experiencing significantly heavier periods than her fellow classmates in her teens, accompanied by painful cramps, tiredness, iron deficiency and severe leakage.

On many occasions her heavy periods caused her extreme embarrassment and in general, compromised the quality of her life, from a physical, social, and professional perspective.

Yet, Yvonne mistakenly accepted her health condition as relatively normal, and “got on with life”.

Only over the past three years has Yvonne finally realised that women should “not have to live with HMB”.

Fortunately, she found a treatment for her HMB two years ago, that has worked for her.

Today, she is encouraging all women who are “suffering in silence” to see their doctor without delay, and to explore effective HMB treatments.

22 September 2023

heavy period

This is Yvonne’s story.

Yvonne has been grappling with heavy periods since the tender age of 13.

“I’ve always had heavy periods and have had to be very mindful of flooding.

“Over the years, I’ve been forced to wear two pads and a tampon for protection, yet I’d still end up flooding through them,” said Yvonne.

“Sleeping through the night was not an option for me, because I knew I would have to get up and change [sanitary protection].

“My [blood] clots were horrendous. It made me wonder whether I was going through after-birth,” Yvonne said.

“But the worst symptoms were my cramps. They would start a week before my period, and taper off towards the end of it.

“Because my symptoms were so severe, I would usually only get two-and-a-bit weeks reprieve each month,” said Yvonne.

Unfortunately, Yvonne’s symptoms did not stop there.

“I lost so much blood with my periods that I became iron deficient, and had to have iron transfusions.

“I was constantly tired. I’d have to push through each day and have an early night, just to avoid falling asleep in a meeting the following day,” Yvonne said.

“This also prevented me from participating in sport. Playing sport is a passion of mine. It’s in my DNA, but it’s hard to dedicate yourself to something when you’re out of action every two weeks.”

Extreme fatigue was not the only health problem that began to compromise Yvonne’s quality of life.

“During my professional career, especially when I started to move into senior roles, I would have to run seminars. It became increasingly challenging to plan my day around my period when I had seminars and meetings literally back-to-back.

“Sometimes, no matter how mindful I was, I would leak. One day, three-and-a-half years ago, I leaked at work, despite trying so hard to prevent this,” said Yvonne.

“When I was younger, I had an accident during my high school art class. I remember thinking, should I pretend I’ve stabbed myself?”

“While I try not to let these moments define who I am, they do stand out, and can be really embarrassing,” Yvonne said.

Yet, despite these embarrassing moments and the significant effect of HMB on her quality of life, for years Yvonne mistakenly thought that what she was living with, was normal.

“I knew my periods were slightly heavier than other women’s’, but I didn’t think it was such a big deal. To me, it was like comparing hair colour – my friend has blonde hair, and I have brown.

“I guess it’s something I’m still coming to terms with. I find it strange that we speak about HMB-related symptoms. I never realised up until recently, that HMB was an actual medical condition,” said Yvonne.

“During school, teachers don’t delve into the nitty gritty detail of periods. It was never really discussed.
It was simply, this is a pad; this is a tampon, and this is what you do with it.

“Only in the past few years have I begun to appreciate that what I’ve been living with, is not normal,” Yvonne said.

Fortunately, Yvonne finally found an effective treatment for her HMB.

Today, she has a simple, but poignant message for other Australian women who may be wresting with HMB.

“You don’t have to live with it.

“Seventeen years have passed since I had my last child. I wish I had sought treatment for my condition at the time,” said Yvonne.

“I really hope we can change the narrative around HMB, because currently, we still wrongly consider it to be a natural, normal part of being a woman.”