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New Options for Treating Heavy Periods & Permanent Birth Control

Two of the most common reasons women visit their gynecologist is for heavy periods and birth control. Historically, birth control pills have been one of the most widely used treatments for both of these issues. However, for women who have completed their families and wish to avoid taking hormones, this is understandably not an option. Until recently, their only other alternatives were hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus) to permanently control their periods, and tubal ligation (surgery to “tie the tubes”) for permanent birth control.

Obviously, these older options are not the ideal for many busy women and mothers. Who has the luxury to take time away from family and work to undergo major surgery? Two newer options are now available that will help women avoid hormone pills, a lengthy hospital stay and extensive recovery time.

For women who have completed their families and want reliable permanent birth control, there is now an in-office procedure, known as Essure, that takes only about 10 minutes. The doctor places small, soft flexible inserts into the fallopian tubes. Over the next three months your body creates a plug in the tubes, which prevents sperm from reaching the egg. Because there is no cutting or anesthesia required, the procedure can be performed safely and comfortably in the office. Many women say it feels similar to a pap smear. It is covered by most insurance plans and total cost may be as low as a simple co-pay. It is 99.8% effective and prevents more pregnancies than the pill and even vasectomy (male sterilization surgery).

If you suffer from heavy periods, a minimally invasive, in-office procedure called endometrial ablation has become the mainstay to treat heavy bleeding without hormones or hysterectomy. This procedure controls heavy bleeding by using high-energy radiofrequencies to remove the lining of the uterus, a process that often takes only 60 to 80 seconds. Women typically report period-like cramps during the procedure, which then go away when it is completed. They can return to work and regular activities the next day. Afterwards, nearly all women report a very light monthly flow with significantly less cramping during their periods. About 42% of women will have no periods at all after the procedure. Most patients say that they wished they had done the procedure years ago rather than suffering every month and letting their periods control their life — 97 % say they would recommend it to other women.

An added bonus for considering the procedures now is that many women have met their deductibles for the year, so the out-of-pocket cost can be next to nothing. If you suffer from heavy periods or want reliable permanent birth control, discuss these options in more detail with a physician.

Dr. Brian Nelson is a board certified OB/GYN and can be reached at (720) 494-3130 or bnelson@longmontclinic.com.