Before we can talk about when a heavy period is a sign of a medical problem, we should define heavy. It can be difficult to know what’s normal when you only have yourself as a gauge. What’s usual for you might be heavy or light for someone else.
At Apple Hill Gynecology, Dr. Marsha Bornt has spent many years talking to women about their periods and has a thorough understanding of what’s average and what’s significantly unusual. There are cases where heavy bleeding is related to a medical problem, but not always. The best thing to do is to discuss your concerns with Dr. Bornt, but in the meantime, we provide some information about the kinds of conditions heavy periods can indicate.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines menorrhagia, or heavy menstrual bleeding, in three ways:
- lasting more than seven days, or
- needing to change your tampon or pad after less than two hours, or
- passing clots the size of a quarter or bigger.
If any of those three apply to you, seeking medical care is a good idea. This kind of bleeding can make carrying out your normal daily activities difficult or even impossible and can lead to anemia.
Potential medical issues
Menorrhagia is a symptom of a variety of medical issues — some serious, and some relatively common and largely benign. However, treatments are available that can help you have lighter periods so that you can live your life comfortably.
Fibroids and polyps
Uterine fibroids are growths on the wall of your uterus. They are incredibly common though most women are unaware they have them. Despite their name, uterine fibroids can be inside or outside your uterus.
Though fibroids don’t usually cause problems, depending on location and size, they can cause heavy, painful periods. The most effective treatment for uterine fibroids depends on numerous factors, including your age, symptoms, and more.
Uterine polyps are similar to fibroids, except they are an overgrowth of endometrial tissue, the tissue that lines your uterus and bleeds away during your period. Medications and surgery are both effective for treating polyps.
If your hormones are fluctuating and causing you to ovulate irregularly, it’s possible that too much endometrial tissue can build up before your period. When that happens, your period may be heavier than usual.
Irregular ovulation can be caused by puberty or perimenopause when your hormones are in flux, or related to stress, weight loss, or some medical conditions. The best treatment depends on why it’s happening.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is one of the medical conditions that can cause irregular ovulation, along with several other symptoms. It’s a disorder of the endocrine system and one of the most common disorders among women. PCOS is also associated with a higher risk of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, among other problems.
Get medical guidance
One heavier-than-usual menstrual period probably isn’t cause for concern, but if you often have longer, heavier, or more painful periods than seems normal to you, schedule an appointment at Apple Hill Gynecology. Talking to Dr. Bornt may help you understand why you have heavy bleeding, and in many cases, treatments are available.