Joanna Wilson, 38, has struggled with heavy periods – a common and debilitating condition – for the last 15 years.
The mum of two experiences painful periods, often lasting 10 to 12 days, that cause her to leak and affect her day to day life.
Joanna said: “I get anxious and lack confidence because I am worried to go places where I am not near a bathroom. It does make me worry, I’ve had bad experiences before and they remain with you.”
“When I was teaching, I would have to leave in between classes to change so it affected my professional life, too.”
It wasn’t until 2010 that she was diagnosed with menorrhagia – the medical term for abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding.
“I had never heard of it before, “Joanna said. “So I was just thankful that my experience had been legitimised and named. It was a relief to know it wasn’t just me.”
Despite being put on a range of treatments, including the pill, mini pill and coil, nothing eased her condition. While certain treatments didn’t agree with her and at one point Jo was bleeding continually for four months.
What’s more, since having two children, Joanna’s period pains have increased.
She said: “I am now sensitive to which side I ovulate from, and am aware of the side with my polycystic ovary – which was identified along with a fibroid in 2016.
“The same side produces pains up my upper back, neck and head, and I have a sciatic pain which lasts as long as the period. The other side is less severe but still produces heavy, long periods and clots.”
Most therapies offered to women with heavy periods, like birth control pills, are hormone based and prevent pregnancy.
Joanna said: “Ultimately I want to avoid further hormone based pills which can produce their own painful side effects.”
Joanna has candidly opened about her condition in order to help other women and raise awareness.
She said: “I would love to share my experience and I hope to see other people find their own solution.
“I still feel as if this is something that women are expected to just deal with, and it can easily be dismissed. I’ve learned not be ashamed, and it shouldn’t be a taboo as it’s very common.”
One in five women experience heavy bleeding
“Heavy bleeding is a debilitating and common condition that affects thousands of women and girls but too often gets dismissed,” a spokesperson for Wellbeing of Women said.
Going forward, Joanna’s medical options remain the same – she can receive a hysterectomy or endometrial ablation. Both procedures will limit her ability to have another child.
If she opts for endometrial ablation, she can get pregnant again, but risks suffering from an ectopic pregnancy and losing her life.
With the support of Wellbeing of Women, scientists at the University of Edinburgh have recently uncovered a cause of heavy menstrual bleeding, offering hope to women like Joanna.
Women with relatively low levels of HIF-1, a hormone which stimulates womb lining repair, are more susceptible to heavy bleeding.
Increasing HIF-1 protein levels in women with heavy periods may form the basis for a new, non-hormonal medical treatment.
“Wellbeing of Women is delighted to have supported this work, which has led to the breakthrough discovery of causes of the condition so treatments might now be developed,” the spokesperson said. “These findings give hope to women who have suffered in silence with the condition for too long.”