Written by Yoppie
10 Jan 2022
What "counts" as a heavy period?
What causes heavy periods?
I’ve always had heavy periods. Is this a problem?
I’ve just started having heavy periods. Should I be worried?
Are heavy periods dangerous?
Is there anything I can do to stop heavy periods?
How do I deal with heavy periods?
Think you’re bleeding more than the average person? It’s hard to tell whether what you’ve got going on in your pants each month is “normal” compared to everyone else’s level of blood flow, so we’re here to demystify heavy periods, and find out what causes them, how to manage them, and the answer to the question; how heavy is too heavy. Let’s find out…
Heavy periods are sometimes referred to as menorrhagia, and when they’re reeeally heavy they can end up negatively affecting your daily life. The official definition of a heavy period is:
If you feel your monthly menstruation ticks several of these boxes, then you fit the official definition of having heavy periods. Yaaaaay? Don’t worry, we’ll take a look at how to manage them more easily so they don’t interfere with your life. But first…
Just as your period is triggered each month by changes in hormones, it’s usually hormone issues that cause your periods to come out like the pull-cord scene from Flashdance. They cause the lining to build up inside your uterus every month, but when they aren’t balanced as they should be, sometimes they can cause the lining to thicken too much.
When it comes time to shed this lining, all hell (and womb) breaks loose, causing a lot of blood and sometimes large clots. The same can happen if you don’t ovulate (there are many reasons why people don’t ovulate, including thyroid conditions and severe stress) as this can throw off the balance of hormones too.
Everyone has different levels of flow during their period, so if you have always bled a lot then it’s probably nothing to worry about - you are simply on the heavy flow end of the spectrum. However, this doesn’t mean there can’t also be underlying problems, as hormone imbalances can still be an issue even if you have experienced this heavy bleeding for years.
If a heavy flow is affecting your daily activities during your period, you should speak to your doctor to make sure everything is healthy and as it should be, and you do not have an underlying issue such as dysfunction of the ovaries, or even an inherited bleeding disorder like Von Willebrand disease (a condition where a person is deficient in a key blood-clotting factor, causing abnormal menstruation).
If you previously experienced what you would consider to be light or ‘normal’ bleeding during your period but suddenly start to bleed more, it’s best to check with your GP to make sure there is nothing to worry about. One of the most common causes of newly heavy periods is a change in birth control or medication.
Heavy periods are a well-documented side effect of birth control methods like IUDs (intrauterine device), and medications that include hormones, anti-inflammatory medications, and anticoagulants can lead to heavy or prolonged periods.
It is most likely a hormone imbalance that can be easily fixed using the treatment options we’ll come to mention, but it’s important to be aware of other potential causes of heavy bleeding, such as PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), thyroid problems, uterine fibroids (noncancerous tumours in the uterus), pregnancy complications, and more.
Though heavy periods are usually more frustrating than dangerous, depending on your age and any other medical conditions you have they can sometimes put you at risk of further health issues as a result, like anaemia, which is caused by a lack of iron. Keep an eye on whether you start to see paler skin, or feel weakness or dizziness.
In most cases, doctors can recommend medication to help with cramping or the amount of blood, such as painkillers, birth control options, hormone treatments, or a birth control device like an IUD. Although IUDs can increase blood flow, if yours is already heavy it is more likely to reduce it instead.
There are even some procedures that can help, like dilation and curettage (often referred to as a D&C) to remove some of the uterine lining, or an operative hysteroscopy to remove polyps and other growths.
Managing heavy periods is personal depending on your situation, but our top tips are:
Do you have heavy periods? Still not sure? Talk to us in our Full Stop FB group or ask any questions directly on Instagram at @itsyoppie. We love hearing from you! Don't forget that our personalised menstrual care subscription can get organic tampons, PMS supplements and much more delivered easily and regularly through your letterbox, whatever your flow.
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