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The coil improves symptoms and quality of life for women with heavy periods

Women who use the coil as a treatment for heavy periods are less bothered by their symptoms and more able to do everyday things than women who have other treatments, a study shows.

BMJ Group News

What do we know already?


In the UK it’s estimated that heavy periods are the reason for around 1 in 5 visits to gynaecologists, and more than five in 100 women aged between 30 and 49 see their GP because of heavy periods every year.

Most women lose twice as much blood during a heavy period than normal - around 80 millilitres (16 teaspoonfuls). It’s difficult to measure exactly how much blood is lost, so doctors say periods are heavy if they stop you from doing everyday things or if they affect how you feel.

There are treatments available to help if you have heavy periods. Some are painkillers or drugs that reduce bleeding, while others are hormones that reduce the amount of blood that builds up in the lining of the womb.

In the UK, the contraceptive coil (also known as an intrauterine device, or by its brand name, Mirena) is recommended as a treatment for heavy periods. The coil contains a hormone called levonorgestrel, which reduces the amount of blood lost during a period. But we’re not sure if the coil is better than the other types of treatment that are available for heavy menstrual bleeding, and we don’t know for sure how long the benefits of the coil last for.

In this study, 571 women with heavy periods used either the coil or other medical treatments, such as painkillers or contraceptive pills. Researchers then compared the scores from the two groups on a questionnaire that measured the effect of heavy periods on different aspects of women’s daily lives.

What does the new study say?

Women in both groups had improved symptoms after six months, one year, and two years. But women who had a coil fitted had more of an improvement in their symptoms than women who used other treatments.

After two years, women who had a coil fitted improved by an average of 13 points more (on a scale of 1 to 100) than women who had other treatments. This difference represents an improvement from frequent to occasional disruptions of work and daily routine, or from experiencing some strain in family life to experiencing no strain in family life.

How reliable is the research?

This is a good-quality trial that included more women and lasted longer than previous similar studies. During the study, a substantial number of women switched treatments, though the researchers did take account of this in their calculations. Around 36 in 100 women who had a coil fitted had it removed within two years because it wasn’t working or because of side effects. We don’t know if this affected the results. The researchers also say that as heavy periods can affect a woman for a long time, we need longer studies to be sure of the benefits of the coil. They plan to look at its effects after five and then 10 years.

What does this mean for me?

The results of this trial show that the coil is better than other medical treatments for heavy periods, and that it allows women to do more everyday things without being bothered by their symptoms.

Published on January 10, 2013

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