Women who suffer from heavy periods can attest how terrible it feels when their time of the month comes around.
Thankfully, heavy periods may soon be a thing of the past thanks to a pioneering new study into the causes of heavy menstrual bleeding.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh, funded by Wellbeing of Women, explored how the shedding of the endometrium (the womb lining) is linked to dropping levels of oxygen during menstruation.
When the endometrium is shed, this causes a woman to bleed during her period.
In order to reduce the amount of blood lost, the surface of the womb that has lost its lining must heal.
The study, which was published in journal Nature Communications, noted that when hypoxia occurred (lowered levels of oxygen), the body produced a protein called HIF-1 (hypoxia inducible factor one).
Production of the HIF-1 protein speeds up the healing process of the womb lining.
The researchers realised that women with heavy periods typically had lower levels of HIF-1 in comparison to women with a lighter flow.
Therefore, creating a treatment for women with heavy periods that boosts their levels of HIF-1 could be the key to helping millions of women worldwide.
Dr Jackie Maybin, clinical lecturer in obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Edinburgh’s Medical Research Council Centre for Reproductive Health and leader of the study, explained the significance of the team’s breakthrough.
“Our findings reveal for the first time that HIF-1 and reduced levels of oxygen in the womb are required during a period to optimise repair of the womb lining,” she said.
“Excitingly, increasing levels of the HIF-1 protein in mice shows real promise as a novel, non-hormonal medical treatment.”
Tina Weaver, CEO of Wellbeing of Women, also stressed how many individuals will benefit from these new findings.
“Heavy bleeding is a debilitating and common condition that affects thousands of women and girls but too often gets dismissed,” she said.
“These findings give hope to women who have suffered in silence with the condition for too long.”
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