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Heavy Menstrual Bleeding (HMB): Why Awareness Matters — A Story From a Flo User

Meet Lou, a Flo user, who shares her story about discovering she has heavy menstrual bleeding (HMB) and how she was able to take control of her health.

Heavy menstrual bleeding (HMB), or menorrhagia, is a condition that nearly one in three people who get periods experiences. Nevertheless, getting proper treatment for HMB is rare for a variety of reasons. Some might have a hard time determining they have HMB, and some might avoid talking about it due to social stigma. 

For 32-year-old Lou from Bordeaux, France, heavy periods were interfering with her normal way of life, and they got worse just after her gynecologist inserted a copper IUD. 

Lou’s story: Living with HMB

Before the pandemic, Lou spent three years running a restaurant with her boyfriend. COVID forced the couple to shut down their business, and Lou started to take on illustration projects for work. 

Her new free time gave her time to reflect on the previous year, she worked long hours, managed lots of tasks at the same time, and gave herself completely to please her customers. It took a good month of letting things go for her to realize something was wrong with her body. 

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Lou started having serious heavy periods just after her gynecologist inserted a copper IUD, in 2017. Before that, her periods were a bit more intense than normal, so she knew that the IUD would make them even heavier. Lou decided to have the IUD removed after two years because it was becoming impossible for her to have a normal life with such heavy bleeding for five or six days every month.

After the IUD was removed, Lou’s bleeding became even more intense. She would wake up in the morning, walk to the bathroom, and bleed through even a cup and a pad.

“I would be nauseous, and I was super dizzy during the first three or four days of my period. Plus, the pain was becoming unbearable. I also experienced a weight gain of approximately 10 kilograms in one year,” says Lou.

I would be nauseous, and I was super dizzy during the first three or four days of my period. Plus, the pain was becoming unbearable.

In May of 2020, one year after having the IUD removed, Lou started experiencing blood loss even when she wasn’t on her period. It was impossible to carry on living that way, so Lou started to look for medical assistance. She had seen numerous health care providers before she found one who helped her figure out what was going on with her body.

“My life at this point was getting really complicated. There were a few times when I lost so much blood it was running down my legs, or standing up too long would make me lose consciousness. It was also difficult to have “normal” intercourse with my boyfriend, as I considered my private parts to be a no-zone because of the heavy bleeding and because of the pain it was causing me,” shares Lou.

Lou’s HMB diagnosis and medical treatment

Finally Lou had an ultrasound and an MRI, which found a few things.

First, they found a polyp that was partially coming out of Lou’s uterus due to stress and hormonal changes. This was the reason she was constantly bleeding. 

They also discovered that Lou had two forms of endometriosis, a disorder in which tissue similar to that of the uterine lining grows outside of the uterus and can cause severe pelvic pain. At this point, she couldn’t live normally with all the heavy and random bleeding and pain. Lou decided to move forward with a surgical procedure, as she believed it was the best solution for her situation.

Lou’s surgery was split into two parts. 

First, Lou had a hysteroscopy, which consists of inserting a camera into the uterus through the vagina and removing the polyp. But the polyp was just one of the reasons Lou was bleeding so much during and in between her periods.

After the hysteroscopy, Lou had a laparoscopy, which involves inserting a camera into the abdomen through small incisions. Once the camera was in place, the surgeon had a more complete view of Lou’s uterus so they could remove some fibroids (one was pushing onto Lou’s bladder and causing a lot of discomfort), some small cysts on the ovaries, and the endometriosis on the bottom part of Lou’s uterus that was causing pain during sexual intercourse.

Hysteroscopy is a procedure that allows a health care provider to look inside the patient’s uterus to discover and treat causes of abnormal bleeding. Laparoscopy is a low-risk surgical procedure that requires only small incisions to help examine the organs inside the abdomen and facilitates surgical treatment, if needed. Both these procedures are common, minimally invasive methods for diagnosis and treatment of abdominal and pelvic organs.

Knowing what’s wrong with my body was really liberating. Right from the moment I knew what was going on, I stopped feeling guilty.

Lou says that she doesn’t understand why women have to feel so ashamed when something goes wrong with their reproductive organs. She acknowledges that many women often encounter misunderstanding, judgement, and minimization of the pain and symptoms they experience, and she went through this as well during her journey.

“After the surgery, I feel so much better! I reconnected with my body and my feminine side,” says Lou.

Lou’s advice to Flo users with HMB

Lou says that she’s proud of herself because she didn’t give up. She also feels lucky to have been supported by her family and friends. 

“Before treatment, I still felt like an “old teenager.” I feel like a woman now, and I’m ready to take on a new role and become pregnant. It is really empowering to be able to be in sync with my body,” explains Lou.

I’m ready to take on a new role and become pregnant. It is really empowering to be able to be in sync with my body.

“My advice to women who are experiencing heavy menstruation is to simply talk about it. If deep down you feel like something is wrong with your body, and if you feel like you’re not being listened to, go to another doctor, talk to other women, contact associations. From my experience, when you go through this, there’s almost always a reason why you’re bleeding that much. It’s not necessary to have to live with this when science is now able to treat so many diseases.”

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