Obesity is associated with heavier periods may cause impaired womb repair

Peer-reviewed, observational/experimental, human/mice.

One out of three women is affected with heavy menstrual bleeding. Although common and debilitating, its causes are poorly understood. 

Due to heavy periods, women are less likely to go outside. In extreme cases, women require blood transfusion as problematic menstrual bleeding can have far negative impacts on quality of life. 

In a new study, scientists used a combined approach, assessing both women and mice- suggests a link between higher body weight and greater menstrual blood loss. According to the study, increased inflammation in the womb lining, delaying its repair. 

Although the investigation didn’t analyze whether weight loss or anti-inflammatory drugs might be valuable in treating women with obesity and heavy periods, this is a step towards growing more successful and customized medicines for those enduring heavy periods distressing and debilitating. 

Scientists studied how body mass index (BMI) may affect womb function during menstruation in women and female mice. They then measured the BMI and menstrual blood loss of 121 women with regular menstrual cycles attending gynecology clinics and not taking any hormone medications. 

A weak but statistically significant association between increasing BMI and more menstrual blood loss was found. Since many other women’s factors may also affect menstrual blood loss, the investigation was extended to a mouse study, where conflicting variables could be limited. 

Mice were fed a normal diet or a high-fat diet preceding recreation of the monthly cycle. Mice on a high-fat diet had essentially higher body weight than those on a normal diet. In the wake of shedding their womb lining, the mice on a high-fat diet showed delayed repair of the excess womb lining compared to mice on a normal diet. Further assessment of womb tissue from the mice demonstrated that provocative variables were additionally higher in mice with more prominent body weight. 

Dr. Jacqueline Maybin at the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh said, “Our findings suggest that women with obesity may experience heavier periods due to increased local inflammation and delayed repair of their womb lining. It would be really interesting to investigate the reasons behind this to further our understanding of womb function in the presence of obesity and develop more effective evidence-based treatments.” 

These findings suggest that weight loss and anti-inflammatory medications may be useful interventions for treating heavy periods in women with obesity. However, this research was carried out on a small number of women with regular periods who were attending gynecology clinics and may not represent the general population. Additionally, larger studies are needed to confirm these findings. 

Dr. Maybin cautions, “Although it is difficult to make strong recommendations based on this study alone, a common-sense approach would be to offer weight-loss support to women with a high BMI experiencing heavy periods. However, this should not replace the investigation and treatment of other underlying causes for heavy bleeding (e.g., fibroids, bleeding disorders, cancer). This should form part of personalized treatment recommendations to be considered by both patients and doctors.” 

Journal Reference: 
  1. Jane J Reavey et al. Obesity is associated with heavy menstruation due to delayed endometrial repair.

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