von Willebrand Disease in Women

Von Willebrand disease (VWD) is the most common bleeding disorder in women, affecting up to 1.3% of women in the United States.1

Prolonged, heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia) is often the main symptom of VWD in women, and can be the first sign that there might be a problem.2

About Menorrhagia

Menorrhagia is typically characterized by2:

  • Heavy blood flow (the need to change a pad or tampon more than once an hour)
  • Blood clots larger than about 1 inch in diameter (the size of a quarter)
  • Anemia (low iron levels in the blood)

If you think you may have menorrhagia due to VWD, make an appointment with your gynecologist, who can fully evaluate your condition and determine what is causing it.

Diagnosis and Treament

Some healthcare professionals are not familiar with VWD because bleeding disorders are rare. They might attribute bleeding symptoms to other causes, or might not investigate the cause of the bleeding once it has stopped.

To make a diagnosis, doctors need to perform blood tests to determine the amount of von Willebrand factor (VWF) in the blood. Because VWF levels can vary, these tests may need to be repeated.2

Treatments for women with VWD who have heavy menstrual bleeding include2:

  • VWD/FVIII replacement therapies
  • Combined oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
  • Intrauterine device (IUD)
  • Antifibrinolytic drugs (which help prevent bleeding after minor surgery, tooth extraction, or an injury)
  • Desmopressin (a hormone replacement)

Pregnancy and VWD

If you have a bleeding disorder and are pregnant or would like to become pregnant, make an appointment with an obstetrician. Your obstetrician can work closely with a local hemophilia treatment center or hematologist to provide specialized care for both you and your baby during and after pregnancy.2

Your healthcare professional team can also work with you to minimize the risk of VWD-related complications during childbirth. By taking proper precautions, most women with VWD can have a successful pregnancy and childbirth.2

This section lists valuable resources and useful links for additional information.

  • Diet and Exercise
    Learn the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise for people with bleeding disorders–and find a list of activities that may be safe for you.
  • Discussion Guides
    Learn how to talk to others about your bleeding disorder.
  • Resources
    This section lists valuable resources, such as a Glossary and useful links for additional information.

References

  1. James AH. Von Willebrand disease. Obstet Gynecol Surv. 2006;61(2):136-145.
  2. What is von Willebrand disease? National Institutes of Health; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/vwd. Accessed October 21, 2014.
Coagulation