By Rachel Strysik
If you’re changing your tampon or pad on the hour, every hour, for at least an entire day during your cycle, you may have menorrhagia. What’s that? The official medical term for unusually long or heavy periods.
What Constitutes a Heavy Period?
There are so many factors that go into what makes a period medically heavy or long, so let’s take a look at them before you prematurely diagnose yourself. Some other symptoms that accompany it are:
- Changing your pad in the middle of the night – Nope, that’s not the norm for most menstruators.
- Wearing two methods of collection at the same time to manage flow – This would be out of necessity rather than precaution. We’re looking at you, overachievers.
- Passing blood clots the size of quarters – Small clots may just be some of the endometrial cells, but large ones, consistently are something you should mention to your doctor.
- Having periods that last longer than seven days – Most people report bleeding for four to five days.
- Bleeding between periods – Not to be confused with light spotting, this would be closer to a full-blown flow.
- Bleeding after menopause – Once you’ve entered menopause, you shouldn’t have vaginal bleeding anymore.
Periods alone can be enough of a disruption to daily life without adding in having to manage a flow that inhibits your daily activities.
What Causes Heavy Periods?
Treating any condition is much easier when you get to the root cause. There are several things that could be causing your heavier-than-average flow. If you’re struggling with a heavy flow, set up an appointment with your doctor so you can diagnose the cause and find the right treatment plan.
Hormone issues. Hormonal imbalances can cause your period, along with other systems in your body, to be out of whack. If your hormones are out of balance, it can cause a thicker uterine lining which leads to heavy bleeding. Additionally, if you don’t ovulate, this can also throw your hormones off and lead to the same thicker lining and heavier bleeding. Thyroid disease and PCOS are hormonal issues that can contribute to heavier periods too.
Growths in the uterus. There are several non-cancerous growths that could contribute to heavy bleeding. They include polyps (growths in the endometrium), fibroids (a non-cancerous tumor that grows in and on your uterus), adenomyosis (tissue from the uterus lining growing into the uterine wall), and endometriosis (where tissue similar to what lines the uterus abnormally grows outside of it). These conditions cause cells in your uterus to grow improperly which can lead to heavy bleeding.
Certain IUDs. If you’re using a non-hormonal intrauterine device (IUD) as birth control, it may make your periods heavier.
Pregnancy problems. In rare cases, after the egg and sperm meet, the growing ball of cells implants itself outside the uterus instead of inside leading to an ectopic pregnancy. Since it can’t be a viable pregnancy once this happens, it may cause heavy bleeding which could be mistaken for a heavy period. A miscarriage can also cause heavy bleeding.
Certain cancers in the uterus. Cancers that affect your reproductive system can cause heavy menstrual bleeding. Uterine cancer includes two types, endometrial cancer, which is more common, and uterine sarcoma, which is rarer. Treatment often includes a hysterectomy.
Infections. Some infections, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs), can cause heavy bleeding. Trichomoniasis, caused by a parasite, Gonorrhea and Chlamydia, caused by bacteria are examples of STIs that can cause heavy bleeding. Chronic endometritis is inflammation of the endometrium caused by infection. Vaginal bleeding or discharge is a symptom.
If You’re in Perimenopause
As you transition to menopause, it’s not uncommon to experience heavy bleeding during your periods. In fact, one study found that among those transitioning between the ages of 42 and 52, more than 90% experienced periods that lasted 10 days or longer and 78% reported their flow as heavy.
As you approach menopause, you have fewer eggs to mature and the body releases higher levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) in an attempt to maintain a normal ovulation schedule. This produces more estrogen which leads to thickening of the uterine lining, which can result in longer, heavier periods.
Your medical professional can prescribe some ways for you to treat your heavy periods, especially if they’re affecting your day-to-day life. Here are some of the most common methods:
- Birth control. The birth control pill can alter the hormonal balance in your body and potentially put an end to heavy periods. If you have a hormonal IUD, that may also help lighten your periods.
- Certain medications. Your doctor can prescribe medication to reduce your flow. It’s possible you may only need to take it while you’re on your period.
- Surgery. If you’ve been diagnosed with polyps or fibroids, removing, or shrinking them may stop the heavy bleeding.
- Removal of the uterus lining. The simplest procedure removes only the outermost layer of the uterus lining and often stops heavy bleeding. Some women need to have this done more than once though.
- Removal of endometrial cells. This can be done via ablation or resection of the endometrial cells. These procedures permanently remove or destroy the uterus lining. Lighter periods or no periods are often reported after such procedures.
- Hysterectomy. In severe cases, full removal of the uterus is necessary. This will end your period but also your ability to get pregnant.
Semaine supplements to try
If you want to go with a more natural approach for supporting heavy periods, we have two supplements you can consider adding to your routine. But they’ll help with more than just heavy periods which is an added bonus!
- PMS & Period Support helps by reducing prostaglandin production. Prostaglandins help contract the uterus to push out blood.
- The Daily Hormone Balance supports happy, healthy hormones which can help you get your cycles back on track if they’re irregular.
The phrase “heavy periods” can be vague and perhaps what is heavy for you feels normal for someone else. If you’re changing your collection method more frequently than every two hours and it’s interfering with your life, chat with your doctor to find the best solution and rule out any underlying condition that could be contributing to it. Periods shouldn’t stop you from living your life the way you want. The less we can dread them, the better.
About Writer Rachel Strysik
Copywriter by day, performer by night, I've always had a way with words.
It took me a few years to realize writing was my calling and performing was simply a hobby.
But once I did, I never looked back.
I'm insanely passionate about menstrual health and dismantling the topic as taboo.
So let's talk about it. Period.