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Health Care Five Things to Know About Heavy Menstrual Bleeding and Uterine Fibroids

Five Things to Know About Heavy Menstrual Bleeding and Uterine Fibroids

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In general, a woman’s menstrual cycle is 28 days long, and the average woman loses about 2-3 tablespoons of blood during her period, but each woman is different and your period may be lighter or heavier than the average amount.1-3 However, did you know that what’s considered “normal” and what’s “normal” for you might not be the same thing? Some women might be surprised to learn that their heavy, prolonged and painful periods could actually be a sign of a medical condition called uterine fibroids.4

“Every woman’s experience with uterine fibroids is different. Some may experience a number of symptoms like prolonged or frequent bleeding through pads or tampons, or severe pelvic pain and bloating that impacts daily activities such as work, family and social activities,” says Beth Battaglino, RN-C, CEO of HealthyWomen. “While others may have no symptoms at all, it’s important for women to have a conversation about their symptoms with their health care providers so that they can help with a diagnosis and together come up with a plan to help manage their condition.”

So what are uterine fibroids? They’re non-cancerous tumors found in the uterus that based on one U.S. study may occur in nearly 70 percent of Caucasian women and more than 80 percent of African American women by age 50.5-8 Despite being prevalent, a recent online survey* found that less than half of women are aware of some of the most common symptoms of uterine fibroids: heavy menstrual bleeding, menstrual pain and pain in the abdomen or lower back. The online survey was conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of AbbVie in partnership with HealthyWomen and included:9

  • 1,192 women in the United States
  • Aged 18-65+

Not sure if what you’re experiencing is considered normal? Talk Fibroids, sponsored by AbbVie, was recently launched to help share information about the symptoms of uterine fibroids, including information to help you better understand if your period is heavy and the impact uterine fibroids could be having on daily life.

Here are five things you should know about uterine fibroids and one of the primary symptoms — heavy menstrual bleeding:

  1. Fibroids can range in size, shape, number and location. Depending on where a fibroid is located, it can lead to different symptoms.4,5,10
  2. Women who experience heavy menstrual bleeding may have to change their pads or tampons more frequently than those who don’t. Bleeding is considered heavy when:11,12
    • Bleeding lasts more than 7 days.
    • Bleeding soaks through one or more tampons or pads every hour for several hours in a row.
    • You need to wear more than one pad at a time to control menstrual flow.
    • You need to change pads or tampons during the night.
    • You have a menstrual flow with blood clots that are as big as a quarter or larger.
  1. Heavy menstrual bleeding can lead to feelings of exhaustion. Uterine fibroid-associated symptoms can affect women’s work, family and social activities+.4-6,12,13

  2. Fibroids can be found during a routine pelvic or abdominal exam. In some instances, your doctor may confirm a diagnosis by asking about your period related symptoms and medical history, followed by lab tests or imaging, if appropriate.4,5,10

  3. Results from a recent online survey* suggest the majority of women (77 percent) didn’t know or thought uterine fibroids must be surgically removed (48 and 28 percent, respectively)9, when in fact treatment approaches for symptomatic uterine fibroids may also include other procedures and medical options, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, birth control, hormone releasing intrauterine devices (IUDs) and hormone modifying medications.5,10

If you’re experiencing heavy menstrual bleeding, you may have uterine fibroids, a medical condition that requires diagnosis by a healthcare provider. There are other causes for heavy menstrual bleeding, so talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms.5,10,11,14 “Talk Fibroids is helping to arm women with the information they need to better understand their uterine fibroid-related symptoms and to advocate for themselves when it comes to visiting a health care provider,” explains Battaglino.

For more information on understanding uterine fibroids and how to talk to a doctor about heavy menstrual bleeding, visit www.TalkFibroids.com.

Based on a U.S. study of medical records and self reports published in 2003 of 1,364 women aged 35-49 years who were randomly selected from an urban health plan.

* This online survey was conducted within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of AbbVie in partnership with HealthyWomen. It was conducted from October 17-21, 2019 among 1,192 women ages 18-65+. Results were weighted for age within gender, region, race/ethnicity, income, and education where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity weighting was used to help account for individuals who may have been unable to participate in the online survey.

+ Based on a U.S. cross-sectional online survey conducted in 2011/2012 of 968 women aged 29-59 years with self-reported symptomatic uterine fibroids.


  1. WomensHealth.gov. Your menstrual cycle. https://www.womenshealth.gov/menstrual-cycle/your-menstrual-cycle#3 Accessed January 2020.
  2. Bulun S. Physiology and pathology of the female reproductive axis. Williams Textbook. Chapter 17;590-663.
  3. Apgar BS, Kaufman AH, George-Nwogu U, Kittendorf A. Treatment of menorrhagia. Am Fam Physician. 2007 Jun 15;75(12):1813-9
  4. ACOG. Uterine Fibroids. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Uterine-Fibroids?IsMobileSet=false. Accessed January 2020.
  5. De La Cruz MS, Buchanan EM. Uterine Fibroids: Diagnosis and Treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2017 Jan 15;95(2):100-107.
  6. Khan A, Shehmar M, Gupta J. Uterine fibroids: current perspectives. International Journal of Women’s Health. 2014; 6: 95-114.
  7. Baird D et al. High cumulative incidence of uterine leiomyoma in black and white women: Ultrasound evidence. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2003; 188: 100-107.
  8. Wallach EE, Vlahos NF. Uterine myomas: an overview of development, clinical features, and management. Obstet Gynecol. 2004;104:393–406
  9. Data on File, AbbVie Inc.
  10. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG practice bulletin. Alternatives to hysterectomy in the management of leiomyomas. Obstet Gynecol. 2008 Aug;112(2 Pt 1):387-400.
  11. ACOG. Heavy Menstrual Bleeding. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Heavy-Menstrual-Bleeding. Accessed January 2020.
  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heavy Menstrual Bleeding. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/blooddisorders/women/menorrhagia.html. Accessed January 2020.
  13. Borah BJ, Nicholson WK, Bradley L, Stewart EA. The impact of uterine leiomyomas: a national survey of affected women. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2013;209(4): 319.e1–319.e20
  14. Committee on Practice Bulletins—Gynecology. Practice bulletin no. 128: Diagnosis of Abnormal Uterine Bleeding in Reproductive-aged Women. Obstet Gynecol. 2012 Jul;120(1):197-206.

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