Mirena IUD for the Treatment of Heavy Periods

If you suffer from heavy menstrual periods, could the Mirena IUD be a good option? How does it compare with oral contraceptives and surgical options, such as endometrial ablation and hysterectomy, for controlling heavy bleeding?

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What Is Mirena IUD?

Mirena is a hormonal intrauterine device (IUD) used for birth control. This small, t-shaped device is inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy for up to 6 years by releasing small amounts of a progestin hormone called levonorgestrel into the uterus.

If you have chosen Mirena for birth control, you may be experiencing some additional non-contraceptive benefits, such as relief from heavy periods.

Mirena for Heavy Bleeding

Mirena is a good non-surgical treatment option if you suffer from heavy periods.

In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Mirena to treat heavy menstrual bleeding. It is currently the most effective medical therapy for heavy menstrual bleeding.

How Many Women Suffer From Heavy Bleeding?

It is estimated that between 9 and 14% of healthy women experience heavy periods. Women who have heavy periods will typically lose about 5 to 6 tablespoons of blood in a single menstrual cycle. By contrast, women with average periods only lose about 2 to 3 tablespoons of blood during their period.

Heavy periods can lead to anemia (when your body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells) and other problems.

Symptoms of a Heavy Period

It may be difficult to tell how much blood you lose during your period, and few women would be able to estimate the number of teaspoons or tablespoons of blood loss.

You may have heavy bleeding if you:

  • Soak through a pad or tampon every 2 to 3 hours
  • Repeatedly stain your clothes or bedding as a result of a heavy bleeding
  • Have to get up in the middle of the night to change your tampon or pad
  • Wear both a tampon and a pad (for double protection)

Research

There have been many research studies done to see if Mirena is an effective treatment for heavy periods. Studies have compared it to oral medications and surgical procedures such as endometrial ablation (a surgical procedure that removes the lining of the uterus) and hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus).

Here is a summary of some of this research:

  • In one study of women who suffered from heavy bleeding, Mirena reduced the amount of menstrual bleeding by 80% after 3 months of use. After 6 months, bleeding was reduced by 90%.
  • Another study looked at 50 women who were planning on having surgery to treat their heavy periods but agreed to have Mirena inserted instead. Thirty-seven of the women reported that they noticed much lower amounts of blood loss after 3 months of Mirena use. This number increased to 41 after 9 months of use. Forty-one of these women decided to continue using Mirena instead of having surgery to treat their heavy bleeding.
  • A review of six different research studies showed that, when compared with endometrial ablation, Mirena was found to be just as effective in reducing monthly blood loss. Mirena was also found to be a good alternative to endometrial ablation because there are fewer side effects and it does not affect future fertility (vs. endometrial ablation, which can make it difficult to become pregnant).
  • One study looked at Mirena as a treatment for heavy bleeding for one year. Mirena was found to be an effective treatment for three out of four women with heavy bleeding and 79.5% of the women planned to continue using Mirena. This study showed that the levels of hemoglobin (the main component in red blood cells) increased at 3 and 12 months for women who used Mirena. This is important because heavy bleeding can lead to lower hemoglobin levels, which could put you at risk of becoming anemic.
  • A 2017 study evaluated the differences between Mirena, hysterectomy, and endometrial ablation for heavy bleeding. Mirena ranked as best with regard to the number of quality-of-life years, followed by a hysterectomy, followed by endometrial ablation.

How It Helps

Mirena can help treat heavy bleeding in two ways:

  1. Mirena may lower the amount of bleeding you have each month.
  2. Your total blood loss per cycle may steadily decrease with continued Mirena use.

After the Mirena IUD is inserted, the progestin released helps to reduce the monthly thickening of your uterine lining. This makes the lining thinner, so there is less of it to shed off during your period, and this results in less bleeding.

How Long Does It Take to Work?

Mirena can reduce monthly bleeding in females with average or heavy periods. Most females who use Mirena will experience a reduction in blood loss after 3 to 6 months of use.

There is roughly an 80% decrease in blood flow within four months of insertion whether you have regular bleeding or heavy bleeding. After a year of use, over 95% of people have a reduction in bleeding.

Spotting May Increase Initially

Some people fear that Mirena won't help early on, as they notice that they have more spotting rather than less. It's important to point out that this initial spotting (more days of spotting or irregular bleeding) is normal after Mirena has been inserted, but usually decreases after a few months of use.

A Word From Verywell

Mirena can significantly reduce menstrual bleeding for the majority of people who have this IUD inserted. This may help with lifestyle issues and reduce the potential for anemia—and it is less invasive than a surgical procedure. It also has the advantage of better preserving your fertility if you are considering having a child in the future.

Any method of reducing menstrual bleeding can have side effects, and it's important to have a careful discussion with your healthcare provider about what is right for you.

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10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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