Teacher forced to quit due to heavy menses bleeding

SINGAPORE - Heavy menstrual bleeding has plagued Jane Loh (not her real name) for the past decade. It was so bad that she has become anaemic.

Constantly fatigued, the 37-year-old teacher had to switch to working part-time.

"I often ask, 'Why me?' I don't smoke or drink, and I exercise regularly, yet I suffer from this condition," she told my paper over the phone.

She was dealt an even bigger blow recently.

Doctors told her and her husband of five years that their chances of having a child are slim, as anaemia will make it difficult for a baby to develop healthily in the womb.

Jane is not alone in her plight. Studies revealed that one in 10 Singaporean women suffer from heavy menstrual bleeding.

A recent audit, done by the National University Hospital (NUH) on 30 women admitted for heavy menstrual bleeding, revealed that two thirds were diagnosed with anaemia.

Conducted over five months, from November last year to last month, the audit found 12 with severe anaemia and nine who required blood transfusion.

The women were aged between 21 and 51, and half of them never had treatment prior to their hospital admission.

Symptoms include bleeding for more than eight to 10 days, and "flooding", which involves sudden and unexpected bleeding.

In most instances, the condition is caused by hormonal imbalances, uterine fibroids or polyps, which are benign growths on the lining of the uterine wall.

Dr Fong Yoke Fai, head of benign gynaecology at the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at NUH, said anaemic patients who become pregnant can be at risk of a miscarriage, giving birth prematurely or giving birth to an underweight baby.

Dr Fong advised women with heavy menstrual bleeding to seek help from doctors, as it could be "detrimental to their health".

"Many women suffer in silence because they do not know the difference between a normal period and excessive menstrual-blood loss, or they do not realise that it can be treated," he said.

samboh@sph.com.sg

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New remedy in sight

According to Dr Fong, heavy period tend to affect women in their late 30s to early 40s.

Heavy menstrual bleeding is defined as the lost of more than 80ml of blood in a single cycle. If you lose about 35ml to 40ml of blood in a cycle, you are normal.

Heavy menstrual bleeding is not fatal, but it can send some women to the hospital, usually due to anaemia.

According to Dr Fong, some women can't even walk a few steps without feeling breathless.

New hormone pill available

While previously, the only course of action a woman could  take was to implant an intra-uterine system or take drugs to alleviate the pain.

However, now sufferers can opt to take a hormone regulating drug called Qlaira, reported The Straits Times.

Developed by Bayer HealthCare, it was first approved for use here as a contraceptive in 2010. The drug has recently gotten the nod of approval from the Health Sciences Authority for use as treatment for heavy mentrual bleeding.

Women are required to take one tablet a day, for 28 days.

The intake of the pill leads to periods becoming lighter and also shorter. According to clinical studies, Qlaira slashes menstrual bleeding by 76 per cent.

However, the pill is not free of side effects, which include headaches, nausea, weight gain and fatigue.

Interested women can obtain the tablets at private specialist and general practitioner clinics. Qlaira will be available at public hospitals in about six months.