Is My Period Too Heavy?
Having a heavy period can be uncomfortable and keep you from living your life to the fullest. You may lose time at school or work, miss hanging out with your friends or be sidelined from sports and other extracurricular activities.
But how much bleeding is too much?
How Much Is Too Much?
Heavy periods are common for young women. In fact, nearly four in 10 girls experience heavy periods, but only one-third of them seek treatment for it.
A normal menstrual cycle lasts anywhere from three to seven days and occurs every 21 to 35 days. Most women on average lost 30 to 50 milliliters of blood during their period.
Clinically, heavy bleeding means you lose more than 80 milliliters of blood each cycle or your period lasts longer than seven days. But most women can’t measure exactly how much blood they are losing each month, which means other criteria for heavy bleeding, also called menorrhagia, is necessary.
Here are signs that your period may be too heavy:
● Changing your tampon or pad every two hours or more often
● Bleeding lasts more than a week
● Experiencing a “gush” when you stand up or move for three or more days
● Feeling extreme fatigue and/or dizziness
● Needing a change of clothes to get through the day
● Staining bed sheets overnight regularly
● Passing blood clots larger than a quarter
● Missing out on activities due to heavy period flow
When It’s Time To See a Doctor
You know your body best, so if you feel like you’re bleeding too much, you probably are. If you’re concerned that your period is too heavy or if it’s interfering with your daily life, it may be time to see your doctor.
Your doctor will ask you about your menstrual cycle, heavy bleeding and other symptoms you are experiencing. They will ask about your family medical history, and they may run bloodwork and check iron levels, a sign of anemia and blood loss.
For the first few years of your period, there may be months where you don’t ovulate, called anovulatory cycles. This is normal but can cause some inconsistencies with your uterine lining (the blood you lose during your period) and may lead to heavy or irregular bleeding.
Sometimes, a heavy period can be an indicator of a more serious problem. Common conditions that can cause heavy menstrual bleeding include:
· Hormonal disorders. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and other hormonal disorders can cause heavy bleeding both during your period and bleeding before or after your period, called breakthrough bleeding.
· Fibroids. Noncancerous growths that develop along the lining of the uterus and can cause heavy, painful periods.
· Von Willebrand disease. A hereditary blood disorder caused by either not having enough Von Willebrand factor (VWF) — a protein that helps form blood clots to stop bleeding — or having VWF that does not work as it should. As many as 20 percent of adolescents with heavy periods may have this disorder.
· Platelet disorders, factor deficiencies and other rare bleeding disorders. Platelets help your blood clot. If your platelets are low or aren’t functioning or your blood lacks other coagulation proteins that help it clot, these disorders can cause heavy menstrual bleeding.
Treatments for Heavy Periods
A woman’s period is an excellent indicator of many facets of her overall health. Talking openly with your doctor about your cycle can help you get the treatment you need.
If you have consistently heavy periods, your doctor may recommend a combination of hormonal or nonhormonal therapy to regulate your cycle and prevent heavy bleeding. The hormones come in different forms, including:
● Oral contraception
● Hormonal implants
● Intrauterine devices (IUD)
If hormonal medications don’t help reduce your heavy bleeding, your doctor may recommend other interventions, including:
· Dilation and Curettage (D&C). A procedure in which the top layer of the uterine lining is removed to reduce menstrual bleeding.
· Endometrial ablation or resection. These procedures remove some of the uterine lining to reduce menstrual bleeding. This option is for women who do not plan to have children.
· Operative hysteroscopy. If fibroids or polyps are the reason for heavy bleeding, a hysteroscopy may be performed to remove growths from the uterus and reduce abnormal bleeding.
Sometimes, bleeding heavily during your period can cause anemia — low iron in the body. When your body’s iron stores are low, it’s hard for your body to function as it should. Anemia can cause dizziness, headaches, fatigue, paleness and even affect your mental health. If you have anemia due to heavy periods, your doctor may recommend you take iron supplements.
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