The world of menstruation can be confusing, frustrating, and strange at times, and it’s natural to question what is going on. Every person experiences menstruation differently, so it can be difficult to identify a “normal” period flow, length and associated discomfort or pain.
While we know that our menstrual cycle lasts about 28 days and is typically heaviest on the first day, there are certain things that we may need to keep an eye out for. Menorrhagia or abnormally heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding is not entirely uncommon. Here, we’ll unpack what a heavy period looks like, what to look for and when to consult your doctor.
Why is my period heavier than usual this month?
One particularly heavy period among periods of regular intensity is usually nothing to panic about. It can be caused by stress, hormonal changes, a change in medication or birth control, diet, or intensity of exercise.
What does a heavy period look like?
Everyone has different versions of what a “heavy flow” feels and looks like. For some, a heavy first day might mean that they need to change their tampon or sanitary towel every four hours, whereas some may need to do the same twice as much for the first day or two of their period. Essentially, a heavy period is any time you feel you’re seeing significantly more blood over the course of your period than usual.
What do blood clots during a period mean?
It’s common to pass blood clots during your period, although not everyone does. You may pass blood clots up to the size of a quarter, or you may not pass any at all. Menstrual blood clots are a mixture of blood cells, tissue from the uterus’ lining and proteins regulating blood flow.
Blot clots aren’t often anything to worry about, but if you see something that worries you, don’t be afraid to reach out to a medical professional for reassurance.
What causes unusually heavy periods?
When we notice a change in our bodies, for example, weight loss or gain, a change in libido, aches, pains, skin breakouts or heavy periods, our bodies are usually trying to tell us something. Unusually heavy periods can often be caused by:
- Hormonal imbalance: in a typical menstrual cycle, the balance between the body’s estrogen and progesterone regulates the buildup of the uterus’ lining (the endometrium), which is shed during the period. If there’s a hormone imbalance, the endometrium develops excessively, and the body sheds it through a heavy menstrual bleed. Hormone imbalances can be caused by obesity, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid problems and insulin resistance.
- Medication: some anti-inflammatory medications, hormonal medications, and anticoagulants like warfarin can cause heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding.
- Childbirth: heavy menstrual bleeding is common among new mothers.
- Uterine polyps: these small, benign growths on the uterus’ lining may contribute to heavy menstrual bleeding.
- Dysfunctional ovaries: the ovaries’ role is to release an egg during the menstrual cycle (anovulation). The body then produces the hormone progesterone, but a hormone imbalance and menorrhagia (heavy bleeding) may occur if this does not happen.
How heavy is too heavy for a period?
It’s totally normal to worry about the amount of blood we lose each month and whether it’s normal. Many questions may arise: how many pads a day is normal? Is it normal to soak a pad in two or three hours?
While there’s no definite normal, you should call your doctor if you experience vaginal bleeding that soaks at least one tampon or sanitary towel an hour for over two hours consecutively.
If you are experiencing any symptoms that you don’t normally with your periods, such as lightheadedness or sharp pain, talk to a medical professional.
Does a heavy period mean you are more fertile?
There doesn’t appear to be any link between the heaviness of your periods and your fertility level. However, many underlying causes of heavy bleeding can lead to an inability to get pregnant: issues like a hormone imbalance, uterine polyps or fibroids, endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease, so the reverse is actually more likely to be true. If you have any other symptoms besides a heavy period, it may be worth asking for further investigation if you are concerned.
Did I miscarry, or is it my period?
Signs of a miscarriage may include spotting or bleeding, which may look like a menstrual period. In the case of a miscarriage, the bleeding typically includes more clots than a period and may appear as tiny lumps in the vaginal discharge.
Bleeding is not necessarily a sign of a miscarriage, but you should always call your doctor if you experience heavier bleeding when pregnant, especially if it’s accompanied by back pain or cramping and your morning sickness suddenly disappears.
When should I be concerned about a heavy period?
Periods can cause a lot of pain every month, and you may feel like your body is turning against you, but the good news is that it is rarely something you should be worried about.
Don’t worry – you can’t bleed to death from menorrhagia. If you feel weak or light-headed and are experiencing a very heavy period, talk to your doctor.
You should only be concerned about your period if you’ve noticed it becoming heavier and heavier or more and more painful each month, or if it is suddenly very heavy. If you have a steady level of discomfort and one particularly heavy period, there’s usually nothing to worry about.
How can I stop a heavy period?
A heavy period will stop on its own, as normal, after 3-7 days. If you’re still bleeding after 10 days, talk to your doctor. Some natural remedies to try are:
- Eat vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables, as they help your blood clot (such as strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes, and peppers)
- Eat more iron or take an iron supplement (iron occurs in beans, tofu, and spinach, as well as meat)
- Take ibuprofen or paracetamol for pain relief, instead of aspirin – if you normally grab an aspirin when the cramps set in, think again. Aspirin is a blood thinner and may make you bleed more (though it’s prescribed for other reasons, don’t stop taking it!)
If you’re struggling with your heavy periods, talk to your gynecologist or doctor, as there are several things they can do to help:
- You may be able to get an IUS (levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system). This small, plastic device is inserted into your womb, where it slowly releases progestogen to help regulate your periods.
- Your doctor may prescribe you tranexamic acid tablets if an IUS is not suitable. These tablets help the blood in your womb to clot and will not affect your chances of getting pregnant if you choose to do so.
- The combined oral contraceptive pill may also be a viable option, although many young women have reported adverse effects on their mental health.
While it may be impossible to rejig the way your body’s hormones work, there are ways you can make yourself more comfortable during a heavy period. With Proof leak proof underwear, you can rest assured that your period leaks will stay firmly intact. Our Super-Heavy panties can hold up to five regular tampons or ten teaspoons of liquid. With full front-to-back protection, you have one less thing to worry about!