NWA Mama Doc: Meet the doctor Haley Vo

We found the PERFECT person to answer some frequently asked medical questions from women and moms. Her name is Dr. Haley Vo and she’s a fellow mom of three kids who grew up here in Northwest Arkansas. She’s our new Northwest Arkansas “Mama Doc” and she is so easy to talk to.

If you have a topic you’d like Dr. Vo to discuss or explain, feel free to send a question to mamas@nwaMotherlode.com and we may feature the question (without your name) along with the doctor’s answer here on nwaMotherlode.

Why are some women’s periods light to almost non-existent while other women have horribly heavy periods?

I know… It doesn’t seem fair, does it?  But there’s a wide range of “normal” when it comes to periods. Some women only bleed for a few days, while others bleed for 7  days. Some have a heavy flow, while others have light flows. (Just fyi… doctors consider a period to be excessively heavy or abnormal if you have to change your pad or tampon every 2 hours or if your period lasts more than 7 days.)

You should also know that there are some medical conditions that can cause heavy periods — things like uterine fibroid tumors, an overgrowth of the lining of the uterus, conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome and thyroid disease.  Heavy bleeding can also be a sign of endometrial cancer, especially if accompanied by other risk factors like obesity and being older than 35.

As you get closer to menopause, your period might become heavier as well as more erratic.

Can having a very heavy period make me anemic?

Yes, sometimes women (of childbearing age) can become slightly anemic because of their monthly periods. This slight anemia, without other medical problems, is unlikely to cause any problems. It’s rare, but very heavy periods (or even one extremely heavy period) can cause severe anemia. In that case, a doctor should treat your period to prevent more blood loss.

If you have a heavy enough period to cause anemia, you might also feel much more tired than usual.

If I’m NOT done having children, what are my medical treatment options for dealing with heavy periods?

Finally, here’s some good news. There are a lot of ways to treat heavy periods. Many of them use hormones, such as birth control pills. Another hormonal option may be the Mirena intrauterine device, which is also approved to treat heavy periods. Some women may find that using drugs called NSAIDS (which includes ibuprofen and naproxen) during their periods helps to lighten the flow.

Finally, a drug called Lysteda changes the way in which your body breaks down tissue and blood clots. It may also help with heavy periods. (Note from the mamas, Gwen and Shannon: We’ve both tried Lysteda and now we swear by it. It works.)

If I AM done having children, what are my medical treatment options for dealing with heavy periods?

Many of the same options outlined in the previous answer can also be used when you’re done having children. But there are a few additional options. For example, a uterine artery embolization (which blocks the major source of blood to the uterus) and endometrial ablation (destroying the lining of the uterus) can be used to treat heavy periods, depending on what is causing your bleeding.

Hysterectomy is a surgical option that is also sometimes used for extremely heavy periods, depending on what is causing them. Most doctors agree that it’s a good idea to try medical therapy to treat heavy periods before doing a surgical treatment.

These are, of course, generalized answers, and may not apply to your specific situation. It’s so important for moms to take care of ourselves, so please talk to your doctor about your personal medical situation.

To visit with Dr. Vo in person, you can schedule an appointment with her by calling the Bella Vista Medical Center at 479-855-6165 or click HERE to read more about her.