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What causes heavy, irregular periods, and how can we treat them?

Wellbeing of Women has invested £249,991 in Dr Varsha Jain's investigation into abnormal uterine bleeding

When a woman’s period changes – becoming heavier or more frequent, for example – this is called abnormal uterine bleeding.

It affects a third of women who haven’t been through menopause, and more than one million women ask for medical help with it every year. In fact, it’s the fourth most-common reason that women are referred to women’s health services.

It can have a huge effect on women’s everyday lives socially, mentally, physically and financially, including their performance at work.

Two common causes of abnormal uterine bleeding are fibroids – non-cancerous growths that develop in and around a woman’s womb – and adenomyosis, when cells that usually line the womb (endometrium) are found in the muscle layer of the womb (myometrium) instead.


There are medications out there that treat abnormal uterine bleeding but they are quite generic and don’t work for all women. That’s why almost a third of women resort to a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the whole womb) instead which is a serious operation and means you will no longer be able to have children.

Dr Varsha Jain, Wellbeing of Women Clinical Research Fellow at the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Edinburgh, believes that if abnormal uterine bleeding and existing medications were better understood doctors could treat the condition more effectively.

In the study, Dr Jain will look at samples of endometrium from women with both fibroids and adenomyosis to try and understand what’s really happening when women have abnormal uterine bleeding.

By better understanding it, researchers could develop more effective, focused treatments for abnormal uterine bleeding in future.

With new treatments, women could manage the condition without it seriously affecting their day-to-day lives, and fewer would turn to surgery as a last resort.

Find out about managing abnormal menstrual bleeding in the COVID-19 pandemic for practitioners here

Our health information on periods and menstrual health

As a women’s health charity, part of what we do is improve awareness and understanding of women's reproductive and gynaecological health.

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"Just a Period"

Our "Just a Period" campaign is raising awareness and improving education around period problems, including heavy menstrual bleeding, to achieve better access to treatment, care and support for women and girls.

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