What Does It Mean When You Have Abnormal Menstrual Bleeding?
When it comes to a woman’s menstrual cycle, there is no universal “normal” in terms of monthly bleeding. The flow for each woman can vary anywhere from light, to heavy. However, according to Dr. David Ghozland, a Los-Angeles OB/GYN and fibroid specialist, a health problem may be present when there’s heavy menstrual bleeding that either requires a new sanitary pad every couple of hours, or lasts longer than seven days. Women with these symptoms could be diagnosed with menorrhagia, otherwise known as heavy menstrual bleeding.
Heavy menstrual bleeding is defined as blood loss greater than about 80 milliliters each cycle. Since it can be difficult to measure the volume of menstrual blood loss, doctors typically use other indicators, such as:
• The frequency at which a woman changes her sanitary pads or tampons.
• Menstrual clotting — especially clots larger than 1 inch in diameter.
• Duration of the cycle itself.
Menorrhagia can impact many aspects of a woman’s life. The need to continuously change sanitary protection can be very stressful and interfere with social activities. In some cases, very heavy menstrual bleeding can make it difficult for women to fulfill work and parenting responsibilities. More importantly, menorrhagia may be a symptom of a more serious condition.
Dr. Ghozland notes that heavy menstrual bleeding may be caused by a variety of underlying physical issues, including hormonal fluctuations that occur during puberty or the approach of menopause. Even certain types of birth control can trigger abnormal bleeding. Difficulties with blood clotting can be another cause of heavy menstrual bleeding. Other possible causes of abnormal or heavy menstrual bleeding include:
• Uterine cancer
• Uterine fibroids
• Endometrial polyps
• Weight fluctuations
• A very restricted diet
• Bleeding disorders (like von Willebrand disease)
• Conditions related to pregnancy
Menorrhagia may just be a symptom of something minor like a hormone imbalance, or it could signify a more serious concern. If menstrual bleeding seems excessive, lasts longer than a week, or greatly impacts your everyday life, it may be a good time to schedule a visit with a fibroid specialist and/or OB/GYN. Women of child bearing age should discuss all their options with their doctor prior to making any decisions regarding the management or treatment of conditions such as heavy menstrual bleeding.