Heavy periods are the most common cause of abnormal bleeding from the uterus and this is a condition called menorrhagia. A period is considered to be heavy if a tampon or pad needs changing every hour for several consecutive hours.
Other signs that you are having a heavy period include passing large blood clots, having a period that lasts longer than seven days, or needing to get up during the night to change a pad or tampon.
In particularly severe cases of menorrhagia, sleep can be interrupted, as can daily activities. Heavy and prolonged blood loss can also increase the risk of developing anemia. This can cause additional symptoms such as breathlessness and fatigue.
So, what causes menorrhagia?
Possible Causes of Menorrhagia
Heavy periods can be due to a number of different things that include:
• Having to take blood thinners or certain other medications
• Having suffered a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy
• Hormonal imbalances, particularly in progesterone and estrogens. This can occur in women approaching the menopause and in young girls who have only just begun to get their periods
• Fibroids, which can develop in the uterus and which typically occur during the childbearing years
• Polyps are small benign growths that develop on the lining of the uterus and which are a common cause of heavy menstrual bleeding
• Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection of the uterus that affects the fallopian tubes and other organs within the reproductive system
• Adenomyosis is more likely to occur in middle age women who have had children. It develops when glands in the lining of the uterus become embedded in its muscular wall
• Cervical, uterine and ovarian cancer are rarer causes of menorrhagia
• Some medical conditions can cause heavy periods including thyroid, kidney or liver disease
• Sometimes IUD use can lead to heavy menstrual bleeding and when this is the case it may need to be removed
Heavy periods are often a common concern for premenopausal women. Most women will not experience the type of blood loss severe enough to be classified as menorrhagia. Women with this condition experience blood loss that is so heavy that they cannot carry on with normal everyday activities.
They will dread the arrival of their period. Women who are postmenopausal and who experience virginal bleeding should always seek the advice of their doctor or gynecologist.
What to Do If You Have Heavy Periods
If you have heavy periods or abnormal uterine bleeding, then it is important to see your gynecologist to find out the cause. Once this has been determined, they can provide suitable treatment. There are various different treatments that may be recommended. Hormonal imbalances can often be corrected through using hormonal therapy.
This will help to stabilize the lining of the uterus and regulate menstrual cycles. One possibility is to use an IUD that secretes hormones. There are various brands that can do this.
If you take blood thinners, there is a non-hormonal medication that can be prescribed that will help to promote blood clotting. Taking anti-inflammatory drugs can help to reduce pain and reduce the amount of blood loss.
Surgical Procedures to Help Heavy Periods
There are several surgical procedures that can be tried. One is to consider a hysterectomy where the uterus is removed, but this is obviously not suitable for women wishing for children. Also, a hysterectomy can be quite an extreme procedure.
For women who have completed their family or who don’t wish to have children, an alternative is to consider a procedure called endometrial ablation.
It is a minimally invasive procedure that is very safe. This can generally be carried out in an outpatient setting and takes just a few minutes to complete. It shouldn’t require a hospital stay and most women will be able to return to normal life the very next day. Other options include a D&C or dilation and curettage, where the cervix is dilated and the lining of the uterus is carefully scraped.
Yet, another treatment is to have a hysteroscopy. This is a procedure where a scope is inserted into the uterus through the cervix. Thus, allowing your gynecologist to evaluate the uterine lining and if necessary to remove any masses that may be causing bleeding.
If you suffer with heavy periods or vaginal bleeding, consult your gynecologist and see what can be done.