The medical term for heavy or long-lasting bleeding during your menstrual cycle is menorrhagia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 10 million women in the US experience menorrhagia annually. It’s a common problem, affecting roughly one in every five women.
At Apple Hill Gynecology, Dr. Marsha Bornt and her staff know that heavy periods can make it difficult to go about the business of living your life. We understand the pain, discomfort, and overall disruption to your life that can result from menorrhagia.
One of the first problems women with heavy periods encounter is the varying definitions of heavy. If your period lasts more than seven days, or you need to change your sanitary pad or tampon every two hours or more often, you’re experiencing menorrhagia. Another indication is if you pass clots larger than a quarter.
This type of bleeding can lead to anemia, in addition to being difficult to manage. When you have anemia, you may feel weak and incredibly tired.
There are several potential causes of heavy periods, and sometimes no cause can be identified. Some of the common causes we see in our office include:
Conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), insulin resistance, thyroid disorders, and obesity can all lead to imbalances between estrogen and progesterone, which can affect your period.
Usually, when your ovary releases an egg, it triggers your body to produce progesterone. If no egg is released, a hormone imbalance can happen, often leading to menorrhagia.
Most women develop fibroids, or benign tumors, during their life. For many, fibroids don’t cause any problem, and you may never even know you have them. Depending on the size and location, though, they could cause heavy bleeding during your periods.
Sometimes small, noncancerous growths develop on the lining of your uterus. These are called uterine polyps and are sometimes associated with menorrhagia.
If you have one heavy period later than usual, it could be because of a miscarriage. Another complication of pregnancy that can cause heavy bleeding is the placenta being unusually low or otherwise in an unusual location.
Several different medications, some quite common, can cause heavy periods. For example, anti-inflammatory medications may be related to heavy bleeding. Others include hormonal medications and anticoagulants.
Some cancers can cause heavy bleeding, as can liver and kidney disease.
The most appropriate and effective treatment for menorrhagia depends on the cause. If your heavy periods are caused by your medication, the best treatment is going to be quite different than if they are related to a condition like a thyroid disorder.
Effective treatments exist for many of the underlying conditions for heavy periods, and in some cases, lifestyle changes can help. Drug therapies are often a good solution, and several surgical procedures are available for more serious situations.
If you have heavy periods that cause pain and disrupt your life, schedule an appointment at Apple Hill Gynecology.