When Is A Heavy Period Too Heavy
- By Claire McCarthy, MD, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing
Its common for girls and their parents to wonder if the bleeding with their periods is too often or too much. Especially in the first few years of having a period, any bleeding can feel like too much. Usually, its not but sometimes it is, and its important for parents to know what to watch for, and when to call the doctor.
In the first couple of years after periods begin, its really normal for periods to be irregular and for some of them to be heavy. At the beginning, periods arent associated with ovulation, and the hormones and hormonal patterns that help regulate periods havent fallen into place yet. If its just the occasional period that is heavy, thats usually nothing to worry about.
Its not always easy to know what counts as a heavy period. As I said, for some girls anything is too much. And while we doctors often ask how often the girl changes her pad or tampon, thats very subjective and dependent on personal preference. Some girls change as soon as there is any blood present or every time they use the bathroom. Others wait until they are completely soaked.
Does Alcohol Help Cramps
Some people may say that alcohol can dull the feeling of cramps while drinking. However, alcohol is a diuretic, which means it increases urination and can cause dehydration. And being dehydrated can actually make cramps worse.
Many health professionals recommend increasing your water intake during your period. Your abdominal muscles and uterus will cramp less if youre well-hydrated. Water also thins the blood and mucus, which makes it easier for your body to pass it. If youre dehydrated, then youre likely to have worse cramps .
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it increases urination and can cause dehydration. And being dehydrated can make cramps worse.
Ultimately, everyone is different. Many people may feel more relaxed with a glass of wine or a cocktail when theyre on their period, which can help ease cramping. The relaxing effects of one or two drinks may help you feel better just be sure to drink plenty of water when you consume alcohol.
What Will The Doctor Do
After listening to the story and doing a physical examination, the doctor generally will do some screening blood tests. Basic tests recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists include a complete blood count and some tests to look for bleeding problems. Along with checking to see if her bleeding has caused her to be anemic, its important to check to see if there might be a problem such as low platelets, or Von Willebrand disease, or some other condition that might cause her to bleed more heavily than normal. Some of these conditions dont become apparent until a girl starts menstruating. In retrospect, there is often a history of easy bruising and bleeding, or a family history of heavy periods or other bleeding.
In most cases, doctors will also do a pregnancy test. This may seem like a strange or silly test to do in a young teenager, but pregnancy can cause heavy bleeding and the reality is that we can never entirely know everything about the lives of young girls. Its always better to be safe than sorry.
There are many other causes of heavy periods. If initial tests dont show anything and the bleeding doesnt get better, the doctor may want to check thyroid function as well as some other hormones, and also do some tests to check overall health. Most of the time, though, more tests arent needed.
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You May Have Endometriosis Or Adenomyosis
Endometriosis is a fairly common uterine disorder, affecting about 10% women worldwide. Extreme pelvic pain is the most common symptom of endometriosis, a condition where tissue lining the inside of the uterus starts growing on the outer surface of the uterus. But long periods, heavy bleeding, and bleeding between periods are also common.13
Adenomyosis is another condition where the endometrial glands begin to grow into the uterine muscle. If you have had any trauma to the uterus, such as a cesarean section, or if you have endometriosis, you have a higher risk of developing adenomyosis. It results in heavy periods, causing similar symptoms to that of fibroids.14
How Can You Stop Your Period Once It Starts
Even though there are several options that you could rely on to reduce the length of your menses, it is essential to note that so far, no scientific method has been proven to stop menstruation after it has started. However, the methods mentioned above can significantly reduce the length of your bleeding days, regulate your cycle, and relieve pain.
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Q: Is This Something Youd Recommend To Patients
A: I have not seen this proposed in any medical journals, and I would not advise patients to try this on their own.
If you want to delay your period, your doctor can instead prescribe the hormones progesterone or estrogen, or a combination of the two. Some formulations can delay a period by a couple of weeks others for only a few days, depending on your needs.
Other options include birth control medications that suppress periods for a couple of months.
A non-hormonal medicine is also available. However, it only decreases blood flow by about 50%.
Other Tips And Tricks
Until you find a treatment that relieves your heavy bleeding, there are a few things you can try to make your periods more bearable:
- Use a menstrual cup. This small silicone cup fits inside your vagina and catches the blood as its released from your uterus. It can hold much more blood than a pad or tampon, and its less likely to leak. And because menstrual cups are reusable, theyre better for the environment than disposable sanitary products.
- Wear period panties. These absorbent undergarments are designed to back up tampons and pads for preventing leaks. You can also wear them on their own. Manufacturers like Thinx claim that their product can absorb up to two tampons worth of blood without causing discomfort.
- Apply a heating pad. Although it wont lighten your flow, a heating pad can help relieve painful menstrual cramps.
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What Do You Do When Your Periods Are Late
You can consider your menses to be late after thirty days since the start of your previous period. This condition is caused by a couple of factors like lifestyle changes, stress, or underlying medical conditions. For this case, it is crucial to reach out to healthcare practitioner for examination.
Nearly all of the methods outlined above are safe and can be tried within the comfort of your home. Most of them include ingredients that are frequently available in your kitchen. Now that you know these home remedies to stop periods at home, why not give it a try?
DISCLAIMER: This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
Other Reasons You May Want To Stop Your Periods
There may be different reasons you would want to stop menstruating. These may include:
Going through one or more tampons or pads in an hour.
The clots are bigger than a quarter.
Changing your pad or tampon during the night.
Your menses lasting longer than seven days.
Wearing both a tampon and pad for double protection.
Being tired, pale and short of breath.
If you have experienced any of these reasons, then you may want to seek medical help outside of the treatments mentioned above.
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You Could Get More Headaches
More than 50% of women associate migraines with their period, according to a 2009 review, likely due to a drop in estrogen levels. Certain birth control methods let you skip periods or go longer between them, such as extended-cycle pills, may prevent migraines. For these women, going off of birth control could cause their headaches to become more frequent.
Ask Your Doctor About Hormonal Medication
If you’re not on hormonal birth control, you may be able to delay your period with hormonal medication containing norethindrone, which is a form of the hormone progesterone, the same active ingredient in hormonal birth control.
You need to start taking this medication a few days before the start of your period for it to delay your period. Note that you will probably get your period within a day or two of stopping it.
A small 2019 study found that people who took norethindrone to delay their period were less likely to experience irregular bleeding than those who tried to delay it with birth control pills. However, the study also found that those who took norethindrone were more likely to gain weight.
Visit your doctor for a prescription and check whether this option is suitable for you.
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Your Endometrium May Be Thick
If you have prolonged menstrual bleeding without big blood clots, its most likely from endometrial hyperplasia. Women with the condition have a thickened endometrium. This is thicker than the usual buildup of tissue before and after a normal period.15
Basically, when your estrogen levels are higher than your progesterone levels, you dont ovulate. As a result, the body doesnt get the signal to stop growing the uterine lining, leading to the thickening seen in hyperplasia.
Hyperplasia can be caused by the following:16
- The external intake of hormones could disrupt the balance of estrogen and progesterone, leading to hyperplasia, especially if estrogen is taken without progesterone.
- Simply being perimenopausal can cause hyperplasia as ovulation doesnt happen regularly anymore.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome can cause irregular periods.
- Being overweight is another cause. Excess estrogen is stored in fatty tissue, after all. So if youre carrying extra fat, thats a prime place for estrogen to settle.
How To Stop Your Period Early
Women go through that phase of the month when we have to deal with mood swings, cramps, back pain, bloated stomach and other discomforts. Depending on your health, lifestyle, diet and other factors, your menstrual period can last anywhere from three to seven days.
But menstruation and all its aches and irritations can come at the very worst times, like if youre going on a vacation, have an important meeting to attend or planning a romantic weekend getaway.
Luckily, there are several ways to reduce the length of your period as well as the discomforts of premenstrual syndrome and menstruation.
Here are the top 10 ways to stop your period early.
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Losing Weight From A Normal Weight
Just like weight gain, there is no defined amount of weight loss that results in missed periods when starting from a normal weight. The more weight you lose and the faster you lose it, the more likely your period will be affected.
Sudden and significant calorie restriction paired with strenuous exercise may cause a stress response that alters your hormone levels, interrupts ovulation, and causes you to miss your period. This results in a lower estrogen level in your body, which is especially harmful to your bone health.
There Are Many Reasons That Periods Can Be Irregular Or Absent Some Require Treatment And Some Do Not
It is not uncommon to occasionally miss a period, or for periods to become irregular from time to time. Under some circumstances, periods can even stop altogether. Sometimes these irregularities are due to normal changes, and are not cause for concern. Other times, they are a sign that something is going on, and a call to your doctor is warranted.
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Get The Right Nutrients
The body requires certain micronutrients for it to function correctly. Specific nutrients can alleviate premenstrual syndrome hence, ease up your periods and regulate your cycle. Vitamin B6 is known to increase the levels of progesterone in the body. This results in the levels of estrogen reduction. Therefore, vitamin B6 helps the pituitary gland in normalising the menstrual hormones.
The exciting thing about it is that it is found in foods such as eggs and fish. Zinc is another mineral that has non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory properties hence it is essential in alleviating period cramps. It is also found in foods such as legumes and dairy.
Q: Does Taking High Doses Cause Side Effects
A: High doses of ibuprofen can result in kidney damage, edema or stomach ulcers. If youre on blood thinners, it could increase your risk of bleeding.
But most young, healthy women should have no significant problems from doing high doses once in a while .
Before trying any new medication or taking a higher-than-prescribed dose, however, be sure to talk to your doctor about your best options and the potential side effects.
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Things That Mess With Your Period
Wouldn’t it be great if you could circle a date on your calendar and have your period actually show up then? You’d plan beach trips around it and you’d never be caught without a tampon. Unfortunately, a little variation is typical: “The average cycle is 28 daysthat’s 28 days between the first day of one period and the first day of your next periodbut anywhere in between 24 and 31 days is considered normal,” says Veronica Lerner, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center. “Still, a highly irregular period is usually a sign that something else isn’t right in your body.” Take note of these 10 things that could be messing with your menstrual cycle, and see your doc if anything seems too far off.
Heard of marathon runners losing their periods? It’s not a myth: frequent rigorous exercise combined with low body fat puts stress on your body, and this stress tells your brain to stop producing reproductive hormones. “Since you can’t nourish a baby under extreme stress, your body temporarily shuts down the production of fertility hormones,” explains Dr. Lerner. One study found that half of exercising women experience subtle menstrual irregularity. A period that arrives a few days off schedule is nothing to worry about, but see your doctor if you haven’t had your period for longer than three months. “It’s a condition called amenorrhea, and it can compromise your bone density long-term,” says Dr. Lerner.