Why is My Period So Heavy and What Can I Do About It?
Do you pass large blood clots? Do you often soak through both a tampon and a pad? Does the bleeding last longer than seven days? If you nodded your head to one or more of these questions then you may suffer from heavy periods.
You may have just dealt with this issue for years without seeking help. Or maybe you didn’t know there are treatment options. The first question is: why is this happening?
When is it considered a heavy period?
The definition of a so-called “heavy period” or mennorhagia as it is known medically, isn’t simple to nail down. That’s why many women who have actual heavy periods may think that the amount of bleeding they deal with every month is normal, while some women might think their menstruation is off the charts when theirs is actually normal. But physicians can point to an actual set of symptoms that they define as heavy menstruation.
- Losing more than 80 ml of blood during one period.
- Bleeding that lasts seven days or longer.
- Or sometimes a combination of both blood loss and period length.
Most often this excessive blood loss occurs during the first three days or so of a woman’s menstrual cycle.
What causes a heavy period?
Going about your normal routine is difficult when bleeding is to the point where you’re constantly soaking through tampons or pads. This condition can make exercise nearly impossible and anything that requires time away from the restroom difficult and nerve-wracking. No one wants to constantly worry that they’ve bled through their clothes.
So what’s the underlying cause of heavy periods? Called dysfunctional bleeding, experts aren’t always sure why some women deal with heavy bleeding every month but there are some medical conditions that they can pinpoint as the root cause.
- Uterine fibroids: Some women may have no idea that their uterus is home to these benign growths. In some cases they present no symptoms and women are unaware of the fibroids, also called leiomyomas or myomas.
- The size, location and number of fibroids influence the type of symptoms. Heavy menstruation and periods lasting a week or longer are two of those symptoms. Others may include:
- Pelvic pain
- Frequent urination or the urge to urinate
- Leg pain
- Hormonal issues: Polycystic ovarian syndrome is one of the underlying causes of dysfunctional bleeding. So are thyroid problems and diabetes. All of these conditions can affect hormone levels which can lead to excessive bleeding.
- Endometriosis: When the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside of the organ women can suffer from debilitating pain, infertility and hormonal imbalances. This condition can also cause heavy and long periods.
- Adenomyosis: When endometrial cells grow into the walls of the uterus it can lead to painful and heavy periods.
- Endometrial polyps: These small growths are usually benign and attach themselves to the inner wall of the uterus which can cause heavy menstrual bleeding.
- Birth control devices: The Intrauterine Contraceptive Device (IUCD) is inserted into a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy. One of the side effects is irregular menstruation, which can include heavy bleeding and/or long periods.
Getting a diagnosis
Scheduling an appointment with your physician to assess your symptoms is the first step in this journey to recovery. The doctor will begin by asking about your periods. How much do you bleed and for how long each month? Has this changed or have you always had these types of periods? Do you bleed between periods?
The answers to these questions will help to determine if the patient is dealing with heavy menstruation. Some physicians will conduct a vaginal examination. The following tests may be ordered:
- Blood tests to check for conditions such as anemia or thyroid issues.
- Vaginal swabs that are sent to the lab to test for infections.
- Hysteroscopy: This procedure, often performed when a woman is suffering from heavy periods, involves inserting a viewing scope through the vagina and into the cervical opening. By examining the uterus the physician will be able to evaluate the patient’s abnormal bleeding, decipher what type of conditions she may have and devise a treatment plan.
What are some treatments for heavy periods?
Thankfully there are now a variety of options available so that women don’t have to suffer from heavy bleeding every month but don’t have to undergo a hysterectomy. These are some of the treatments that may be recommended:
- Endometrial ablation: This outpatient procedure removes the inner endometrial lining of the uterus. Unlike other surgical options, no incisions are made during an endometrial ablation.And although the procedure will help reduce heavy menstrual flow, it does not alter or interfere with hormonal balances. The details:
- Entire procedure takes 15-20 minutes.
- Patients should expect a 70 percent success rate.
- There’s little to no post-procedure discomfort or downtime.
- Not recommended for pregnant women or women who want to become pregnant or post-menopausal women.
- Medication: Physicians may prescribe hormone-free medications to curb the excessive bleeding or the inflammation associated with heavy periods. Other medications such as oral birth control, progesterone or injections may also be prescribed.
- Myomectomy: This surgery removes fibroids but keeps the uterine intact. It’s a good option for women who suffer from heavy vaginal bleeding but still want to be able to have children.
Do you think you have abnormally heavy menstrual periods? Schedule a free consultation with Dr. David Ghozland to learn more about your heavy period treatment options.