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Uterine ablation, also referred to as endometrial ablation, is done for a number of reasons with the most common reason being heavy menstrual bleeding. This procedure can be beneficial for heavy menstrual bleeding because it can effectively stop the bleeding or control the bleeding for many women. Understanding this procedure and the possible uterine ablation side effects is very important before deciding to have a uterine ablation.
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About Uterine Ablation
This procedure is done to help treat several causes of heavy menstrual bleeding, such as endometriosis, that is not responding to other treatment methods. Ablation will destroy a thin layer of the uterus's lining and for many women this will stop their menstrual flow. For women who still have menstrual bleeding, their flow will be very light to normal. This procedure does not remove any female reproductive organs, though, pregnancy is not likely to occur once this procedure is done, but it can still happen. Women will still need to have regular pelvic exams and pap smears after this procedure.
Women with certain medical conditions should not have a uterine ablation. These include being past menopause endometrium or uterine disorders, recent or current uterine infection, endometrial hyperplasia, recent pregnancy, and cancer of the uterus.
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Preparing for This Procedure
Prior to having an ablation a few tests may be done to make sure that a woman is a good candidate for this procedure. These include an endometrial biopsy, ultrasonography, hysteroscopy, and removing any intrauterine devices. A pregnancy test will also be done because pregnant women cannot have this procedure.
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Uterine Ablation Methods
This procedure is a relatively quick procedure and many patients can go home the same day after a short recovery. There are several ablation methods used and these include radiofrequency ablation, electrosurgery, freezing, microwave energy, heated fluid, and heated balloon.
Ablation is done by passing the instruments through the vagina and cervix to the uterus. No incisions are used during any ablation method. After the procedure the patient will recover for about two hours and will be provided with adequate pain relief. Some patients will be sent home with pain medication if needed.
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Side Effects of Ablation
There are certain uterine ablation side effects that women may experience after the procedure. These include nausea, cramping (similar to the cramps during a menstrual periods) for a few days, frequent urination for 24 hours, and watery, thin discharge mixed with blood that can last for a few weeks. This discharge can be quite heavy for two to three days after an ablation.
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If a woman becomes pregnant after ablation, there is a high risk of miscarriage so women who have this procedure should use some type of birth control or sterilization after ablation. Other risks include bleeding, infection, burns (vulva, vagina, and bowel), and the fluid used being absorbed into the bloodstream. The risks associated with this procedure are small and most women do not experience any of them.
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American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2010). Uterine Ablation. Retrieved on February 23, 2010 from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: http://www.acog.org/publications/patient_education/bp134.cfm
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Uterus: Jmarchn – Wikimedia Commons