Heavy periods, or menorrhagia, affects some women. It doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything wrong, however losing an excessive amount of blood during a period can disrupt a woman’s life as well as having physical and emotional impacts.
- SEEK HELP – Seek help from a gynaecologist that provides a calm, unhurried environment.
- DIAGNOSIS – Prompt diagnosis will help undercover what might be causing your symptoms.
- TREATMENT – Knowing your treatment options allows you to make informed decisions about your women’s health.
- DON’T DELAY – Prompt treatment of gynaecology conditions often results in a greater chance of success.
There is no definitive definition of a “heavy period” because every woman’s cycle is different. What is a normal amount of blood loss for one woman is heavy for another. On average, women lose 30 to 40 millilitres of blood during a period. Heavy menstrual bleeding is generally considered to be 60 millilitres of blood or more during each period.
A better way of establishing if you are having heavy periods is to consider how they make you feel. Some indicators that you may be losing an excessive amount of blood are:
- Needing to use towels and tampons together
- Experiencing flooding (heavy bleeding) through to your clothes or bedding.
- Using an unusually high number of tampons or towels during your period
Certain health conditions can cause heavy bleeding, including:
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: this can cause irregular periods. When they start again they can be heavy.
- Fibroids: non-cancerous growths that develop in or around the womb.
- Endometriosis: where small pieces of the womb lining are found outside the womb (in the vagina, bladder, fallopian tubes or ovaries)
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: an inflammation in the upper genital tract (womb, fallopian tubes or ovaries) which can cause pelvic or abdominal pain and bleeding between periods or after sex.
- Cervical or endometrial polyps: non-cancerous growths in the cervix or womb
- Adenomyosis: a condition where tissue from the womb lining becomes embedded in the wall of the womb.
- Underactive thyroid gland: where the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones, leading to depression and weight gain
- Blood clotting disorders
- Cancer of the womb
Certain medical treatments can also cause heavy periods, including an IUD (the coil), some anticoagulant medication; some medicines used in chemotherapy
The first step is normally for your gynaecologist or GP to do a pelvic examination. They may also suggest a blood test to check for anaemia (iron deficiency) and you may also be referred for an ultrasound scan.
There is no need for treatment if no serious cause is detected or if the heavy bleeding is not having an adverse effect on your life. If you do need treatment, you will normally be offered medication. It may take a little while to determine the most appropriate medication for you. If this does not solve the problem, you may be referred for surgery.