Is Heavy Menstrual Bleeding Serious
Heavy menstrual bleeding can be serious if you lose so much blood that you show signs of anemia. Anemia is a condition arising from having too little iron in your body. Anemia can be life-threatening without treatment.
Also, some of the conditions that can cause heavy period bleeding, like cancer, require early medical intervention. Speak with your healthcare provider to discuss any risks related to your period bleeding.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Heavy Menstrual Bleeding
Signs of heavy menstrual bleeding include:
- Abdominal pain.
- Periods lasting longer than seven days.
- Passing blood clots that are the size of a quarter or bigger. The blood may appear red, pink, brown, or even rust-like.
- Bleeding through 1 or more tampons or pads each hour for more than two consecutive hours.
- Losing more than 80 milliliters of blood during your period instead of what is typical, 35-40 milliliters.
- Anemia symptoms, like feeling exhausted, tired or short of breath.
With anemia, you may also notice signs of a condition called pica. Pica symptoms include hair loss, pale skin, and the urge to eat non-food items . See your provider if have these symptoms.
What Will My First Period Feel Like
You may find your first period comes and goes with very little in the way of symptoms, or you may find you experience quite a bit of discomfort. Common symptoms include:
- Cramping in the lower abdomen
- Breast tenderness
- Diarrhea or nausea
Most of these symptoms do not last long, and can be treated with ibuprofen or other over-the-counter pain relief medications. A heating pad or hot water bottle on the abdomen or lower back can help ease pain in these areas. More details on menstrual pain and other symptoms can be found here .
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Male Vs Female Colleagues
“We have free tampons and sanitary towels at work…were so fortunate. Even in the unisex loos. Were even trialling organic/non-toxic versions.
My team is fortunately mostly women so we talk freely amongst our group. The guys just stay silent given theyre outnumbered .
I have extremely heavy/painful periods and tend to work from home at least one day a month….but couldnt bare to tell my boss the real reason for being at home.”
Okay But How Heavy Is *too* Heavy Really
Honestly, it’s super subjective. Minkin has had patients who have come in with pretty normal bleeding convinced they were spurting Niagara Falls, while some other patients who actually *were* at waterfall levels didn’t care at all.
So tbh, it’s ~too much~ when it’s disrupting your life. “For example, you regularly have to go to the bathroom because you’re afraid you’re going to stain all the time,” says Basinski. “Or you’re turning down plans because you’re on your period and you feel like you can’t leave the house. Or if it’s interfering with your sex life and your relationships.” There’s no scientific bar you have to pass if it’s heavy enough that it’s messing with the way you live your life, then it’s too heavy.
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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 cant 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
Cervical Or Endometrial Cancer
Endometrial cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the endometrium grow into the uterus and/or other organs. While the cause of endometrial cancer is unknown, the most common age for diagnosis is the mid 60’s.
Treatment for endometrial cancer is usually a hysterectomy, possibly followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments.
Early diagnosis is key to the effective treatment of cancer. In addition to regular Pap screening for cervical cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends that women at high risk of endometrial cancer have an annual endometrial biopsy.
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What Is Considered A Heavy Period
In some cases, you may have a sudden heavy period that comes unexpectedly. Most women will occasionally have heavy bleeding. Its not unusual to have changes in your flow.
However, your period is a heavy period if it lasts for more than seven days or you need to change your pad or tampon after two hours. Some women actually have to double-up on pads. If this happens to you, please contact our office for an appointment.
Getting Help For Heavy Periods
If youve read down this far and have any suspicion that your period is heavy, it’s best to check in with your healthcare provider. Finding the specific cause of your heavy menstrual bleeding is important to get you feeling better, and to prevent other problems like anemia.
Here are a few things to look out for that will need more urgent medical attention:
Youre experiencing heavy bleeding, especially with symptoms of shortness of breath or dizziness.
You soak through pads or tampons in 1 to 2 hours or less.
You have blood clots larger than a quarter.
Your heavy period lasts more than 7 days.
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What Is Heavy Bleeding
Heavy menstrual bleeding is excessive and/or prolonged menstrual bleeding. The amount varies from woman to woman and can change at different stages in your life for example, in teenage years or approaching menopause. It is defined as blood loss greater than 80ml per cycle, or periods lasting more than seven to eight days. Heavy menstrual bleeding affects about one in five women and is a common problem in the 30-50-year-old age group.
Heavy bleeding fact sheet
How To Treat Heavy Periods
Heavy periods arent automatically a problem. But if theyre interfering with your daily life, there are definitely things you can do thatll help you cope.
Heavy periods are also worth addressing if you feel like they zap your energy, since fatigue or sluggishness could be a sign of iron-deficiency anemia.
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An Introduction To Heavy Periods
Many women complain of their heavy periods, but what does heavy actually mean? Heavy periods, also called Menorrhagia, are surprisingly common and affect many women.
Although it is often hard to measure how heavy you periods are, generally periods are classed as heavy if you lose over 60ml of blood over the course of each period thats just over 3 tablespoons worth…. This can be hard to measure though so throughout this page we discuss some common signs and symptoms that suggest you might be experiencing particularly heavy periods.
We then go on to discuss some common causes and in line with this, some ways in which you can manage your periods going forward if your periods are heavy there are some solutions!
What If My Period Doesnt Come Or If It Starts When I Am Very Young
If you have not had a first period by the age of 15, or its been more than two to three years since your breasts started developing and you have not had a period, its best to talk to your doctor. If you get your period very young, at nine or ten it is usually just simply that you developed early. However, its a good idea to see your doctor to rule out other underlying medical conditions.
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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.
Abnormally Short Or Long Periods
Normal periods can last anywhere from two to seven days. Short periods may be nothing to worry about, especially if theyre typical for you. Using hormonal birth control can also shorten your cycle. Going into menopause can disrupt your normal cycles as well. But if your periods suddenly get much shorter, check in with your doctor.
Some of the same factors that cause heavy bleeding can make your periods longer than usual. These include a hormone imbalance, fibroids, or polyps.
Cramps are a normal part of periods. Theyre caused by uterine contractions that push out your uterine lining. Cramps typically start a day or two before your flow begins, and last for two to four days.
For some women, cramps are mild and not bothersome. Others have more severe cramps, called dysmenorrhea.
Other possible causes of painful cramps include:
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Find Out If Your Flow Is Abnormal
Its not always easy to know if your menstrual flow is abnormally heavy. Whats considered a normal menstrual flow is different for every woman. You may have been used to a lighter flow and find that your periods are heavier lately, but that doesnt necessarily mean youre having abnormally heavy bleeding.
If it seems like your flow is unusually heavy every month, its time to get the opinion of an OB/GYN. The team at Rodeo Drive Womens Health Center routinely diagnoses and treats heavy menstrual bleeding.
Here are some signs you may be experiencing heavy periods:
- Needing to change pads or tampons every 2-3 hours
- Bleeding that lasts more than seven days
- Needing to change pads or tampons during the night
- Inability to control blood flow with high-absorbency pads or tampons
- Passing large blood clots
Can Heavy Period Bleeding Lead To Other Health Conditions
Bleeding from heavy periods can cause iron-deficiency anemia. Anemia means your body doesnt have enough red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your tissues. And iron is an essential component for your body to make red blood cells. So, blood loss from heavy periods may result in a double whammy: low red blood cells and not enough iron to make more.
Without enough iron or red blood cells, you may feel tired or short of breath. Or you may have trouble with athletic performance. If your anemia is severe, you could be at risk for damage to your vital organs, like having a heart attack or a stroke. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you take an iron supplement to prevent these issues from happening.
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What Foods Make Your Period Heavier
Watch out!Your diet can make your periods heavier!
- Beetroots. Beetroots are loaded with iron, calcium, vitamins, potassium, folic acid and fibres.
- Chocolates. Yes, they are great for your bad moods and cramps but, do you know that eating chocolates while menstruating can make your periods heavy?
When To See A Doctor For Your Heavy Period
A few heavy days here or there probably isnt a big deal. But you should talk with your doctor if your period is consistently very heavy or if the heavy bleeding is accompanied by other symptoms, since those could signal an underlying health problem.
Let your doc know if you experience:
- periods lasting longer than 7 days
- periods where you soak through more than one pad or tampon per hour for several hours
- periods where you pass clots larger than a quarter
- periods that leave you totally wiped or otherwise affect your quality of life
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Signs Of Bleeding Too Excessively
It is sometimes frightening for young girls when they first get their period. Most of the time their symptoms are fairly normal, but sometimes their fears are justified. If and when that occurs, its best to make an appointment with a board-certified OBGYN.
Some signs that periods arent normal include:
- Bleeding through pads and clothes is a sign that her period is too heavy. Not only is this embarrassing, but it isnt normal.
- If your daughter is passing clots and especially if they are larger than about an inch.
- If she needs to get up at night to change pads or needs to wear more than one pad during the day.
- If the heaviness of her periods is interfering with school, her social life, and after school activities, this is cause for concern.
- If she is dizzy or lightheaded, and especially feeling weak and appearing pale, contact an OBGYN.
- Menstrual bleeding that lasts longer than a week.
How Can I Stop Heavy Periods
If your doctor determines that an underlying condition is contributing to your heavy menstrual bleeding, treating that condition often helps lighten your periods. But heavy menstrual bleeding can also be effectively treated even if there isnt an underlying medical condition causing it.
The exact treatment plan your doctor recommends will depend on a host of factors, including:
- The underlying cause of the bleeding
- The severity of the condition and the bleeding
- How well you respond to certain treatments
- Your medical history
- Your personal preferences
From there, your doctor may recommend various treatment options:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , such as ibuprofen or naproxen, which are available over the counter and can help reduce blood loss and relieve cramping
- Antifibrinolytic medication, such as tranexamic acid or aminocaproic acid, which are used to improve blood clotting and control bleeding
- Oral contraceptives, such as low-dose birth control pills, to help regulate your menstrual cycle and reduce menstrual bleeding
- Hormone therapy, such as estrogen or progesterone, to address any underlying hormonal imbalance that may contribute to heavy menstrual bleeding
- Hormonal IUDs, which release hormones to help thin the uterine lining and decrease menstrual bleeding and cramping
- Iron supplements to address any underlying anemia
- Nasal sprays to address bleeding disorders such as von Willebrand disease or mild hemophilia
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