Roughly one in three women describe their periods as being heavy, so if you have this issue, you have plenty of company. However, it would be a mistake to think that it’s normal just because it’s common. Heavy menstrual bleeding can indicate some health problems.
The team at Apple Hill Gynecology, led by Dr. Marsha Bornt, knows that heavy bleeding can make simply getting through a normal day challenging. We understand that the pain and discomfort that may accompany heavy bleeding disrupts your life. We’re happy to tell you that many treatments are available, depending on the cause of your heavy periods.
Before we talk about the potential causes of heavy bleeding or how they can be treated, we need to define what heavy actually is. Bodies are unique, so it’s expected that there is variation among women in how long their menstrual cycle lasts, how many days their period lasts, and how much they bleed.
The CDC says that most periods last about four to five days, and the amount of blood lost is around two to three tablespoons, which is a relatively small amount. Women who have heavy bleeding, which is called menorrhagia, may have periods that last longer than seven days, lose twice as much blood, and require changing your pad or tampon every hour. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists add blood clots as big or bigger than a quarter to the definition of heavy bleeding.
Problems caused by heavy bleeding
In addition to the discomfort and disruption to your life, heavy bleeding during your menstrual period can cause iron-deficiency anemia, which is abnormally low iron levels in your blood. It can make you feel fatigued and dizzy, make your skin pale, and your hands and feet cold.
Having to go to the restroom to change your period protection every hour, carrying enough supplies to get through the day, and worrying about your clothing are more than minor annoyances. Unfortunately, that heavy bleeding is often also accompanied by severe cramping.
Potential causes of heavy periods
It’s possible that your periods are heavier than average because of your genetic makeup; however, several health conditions can cause it, too. Treating those issues may help.
Some of the common reasons we see for heavy periods include:
- Uterine fibroids or polyps
- Hormonal imbalances related to birth control or PCOS or thyroid issues
- Bleeding disorders like von Willebrand disease
- Liver or kidney disease
- Uterine or cervical cancer
- Some medications
Diagnosing the cause
The first step in understanding why you have heavy periods is ruling out those potential underlying health issues. You can expect Dr. Bornt and her staff to talk to you about your medical history, your current symptoms, any medications you’re taking, the problems heavy bleeding causes, and other components of your health.
Various diagnostic tests are also often used, like blood tests, Pap tests, biopsies, or imaging tests. Each of these test results helps narrow down what’s happening, giving Dr. Bornt more information about your overall health.
Once she has a thorough understanding of what may and may not be contributing to your heavy bleeding, Dr. Bornt will discuss various treatment options with you. The treatment that is likely to work best for you depends entirely on why you’re having heavy periods—the treatment for a hormonal imbalance is entirely different from treatments for uterine cancer.
You don’t have to live with the pain and disruption of heavy bleeding. If your periods are difficult to manage because they last so long, you bleed so much, or you’re so uncomfortable that you have difficulty with your regular activities, schedule an appointment at Apple Hill Gynecology.