Heavy periods

For some of us, suffering from heavy periods can be an uncomfortable experience. While in some cases there is no identifiable cause at all, it can also be the symptom of another health issue.

For many, the flow can change between cycles and we can experience the odd monthly bleed that’s heavier than usual. But if this continues and it starts to impact your life, then it’s worth investigating further to see what might be behind the change.

Rule number one: don’t suffer in silence.

If your periods are preventing you from doing what you otherwise normally do (such as sport, hobbies, going to work and other activities that you love doing), then it is definitely worth getting yourself checked out to find out if there is something else going on.

And even if there isn’t, your doctor should be able to provide you with a solution that can help you manage these heavier flows better and get on with your life.

Menorrhagia is the term used for periods that have an abnormally heavy flow. While many women suffer from cramping and heavier flows during their period (especially at the start of their period), menorrhagia is a lot less common.

If you find that you soak through your period product (such as a tampon or pad) every hour on a regular basis, then you may be suffering from menorrhagia and you should talk to your doctor so they can advise you.

How do you know if you have a heavy period?

Heavy period check list:

Do you have to change your pad or tampon every hour or more for more than a day?

Do you need to wear additional protection (such as two pads at the same time) to manage your flow?

Do you have to get up in the night to change your pad?

Have you noticed large blood clots that are wider than about 3cm?

Do you feel very weak, tired or breathless during your period? In addition to any of the above, do you bleed or spot between periods?

Do you regularly cancel your plans, hobbies, sports or other activities because of your period?

If any of the above apply to you, then it is likely that you suffer from heavy menstrual flow and you can consider seeking medical advice.

In general, it is widely accepted that if you pass more than 60ml-80ml of menstrual blood, then it is classed as a heavy period.

It can be difficult to measure this if you are using a more traditional menstrual hygiene product such as a tampon or sanitary pad, as they soak the blood rather than collect it.

A menstrual cup, however, such as the MedFem Menstrual Cup, is ideal for heavier flows, as it can hold up to 3 times more blood than a super tampon or a pad (it comes in 2 sizes – 25ml and 30ml). As it collects the blood, it also makes it easier for you to monitor and measure your flow.

Why is my period so heavy?

A hormone imbalance is a common cause of heavy periods. During your cycle, hormones in the uterus cause the lining to break down when the egg is not fertilised.

In the case of a hormone imbalance, excessive thickening of the lining can occur, and this can result in heavier bleeding.

There are a number of other possible reasons why you may suffer from heavy menstrual bleeding. These are some common causes:

Age can play a part. If you have only just started to get your period, an imbalance in your hormones can cause heavy periods. Similarly, if you are going through menopause, you can experience abnormal bleeding too.

Contraception or medication: If you’ve changed or stopped taking your pill or you have fitted a copper IUD, you may find that your periods are heavier at first.

Growths and polyps: these are non-cancerous growths within the lining of the uterus, which can result in a heavier or longer lasting period.

Medications such as blood thinners or steroids could cause your periods to be heavier.

Endometriosis: a syndrome that can cause the uterine tissue to grow outside the uterus, and can cause heavy periods, excessive clotting and pain in the abdomen, pelvic area and lower back.

How to manage a heavy period

It’s not easy when you have menorrhagia. Many people find that they can’t take part in their usual activities and everyday life because there is so much cramping and heavy blood loss, as well as accompanying symptoms such as tiredness or breathlessness.

However, there are many treatments and solutions out there for heavy periods, from hormonal methods such as the contraceptive pill or a hormone-controlled IUD (as opposed to a copper IUD), to procedures that remove polyps or growths, if needed, so it’s important to consult your doctor so that you can find the right solution for you.

Aside from medical treatments, there are also natural methods that can have an impact on how your body reacts to your heavy flow.

Diet can have a big impact. Make sure that you stay hydrated by drinking lots of water and eat food that is rich in iron and potassium, such as bananas, dark green vegetables or salmon.

Exercise is also good, as it releases feel-good endorphins and can help to ease your cramps.

Yoga and meditation can help you to get rid of any stress build up, which can have a negative impact on your flow. If that is not your thing, try to find an activity that helps you to destress, such as meeting a friend or taking a stroll outside in the fresh air.

What’s important to remember is that heavy bleeding can be controlled and, while heavy bleeding is not always a symptom of a more serious condition, if you talk to your doctor or gynaecologist, they can advise you on the best course of action.

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