Evaluation and management of heavy menstrual bleeding in adolescents: the role of the hematologist

Sarah H. O'Brien


Heavy menstrual bleeding (HMB) is frequently reported by adolescents. The role of the hematologist is threefold in the evaluation of such patients: 1) perform a clinical and laboratory evaluation for an underlying bleeding disorder based on the degree of clinical suspicion, 2) identify and manage any concomitant iron deficiency, and 3) provide input to the referring provider regarding the management of HMB, particulary for patients with identified hemostatic defects. Several clues in the menstrual history should raise suspicion for an underlying bleeding disorder, such as menses lasting >7 days, menstrual flow which soaks >5 products daily or requires product change during the night, passage of large blood clots, or failure to respond to conventional therapies. A detailed personal and family history of other bleeding symptoms should also be obtained. Iron deficiency with and without anemia is commonly found in young women with HMB. Therefore, it is important to obtain not only a hemoglobin, but also a ferritin level, when evaluating these patients. Iron supplementation is often a key component of management in the adolescent with heavy menses, and is still needed even in those who have received packed red cell transfusions due to severe anemia. Strategies for decreasing menstrual blood flow are similar between adults and adolescents with heavy menses, with combined hormonal contraceptives recommended as first-line therapy. However, adolescent-specific considerations exist for many of these agents, and must be incorporated into shared decision making when selecting the most appropriate treatment.

  • Submitted May 24, 2018.
  • Accepted June 28, 2018.