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Why Heavy Periods Shouldn’t Be Ignored

On an average, it is estimated that your menstrual cycle lasts for around 21-28 days. Once a new cycle starts, the period or menstrual bleeding might typically last for around 2-7 days.

However, it is necessary to keep in mind that every woman has a different period cycle. The total length of your period in combination with other factors like the menstrual cycle and the associated menstruation symptoms that may vary from one woman to another. Some women also tend to have irregular period cycles. While experiencing irregular periods once or twice is not a cause for concern, it is important to note that constant irregular periods can be a sign of some underlying condition. Apart from irregular periods, it is also essential to take note of heavy menstrual bleeding, which certainly signifies that there’s some critical issue that needs to be treated. Let’s talk more about it.

A] What is Heavy Menstrual Bleeding?

Menorrhagia is the accurate medical term for unusually heavy periods that are caused due to underlying disease. It could be caused due to hormonal imbalance or be a side effect of medications you are taking. We’ll shortly discuss the common causes of heavy periods, but before that let’s understand the reality of heavy flow.

When a woman who has always had normal period bleeding suddenly starts experiencing heavy period flow, it might be a sign there might be a specific underlying reason. If you are experiencing an unusually heavy period, you should get in touch with your doctor and seek immediate assistance for the same. It is estimated that only one-third of women experiencing symptoms of a heavy period go ahead with seeking proper treatment.

B] Understanding the Basics of Menstrual Cycle

The Menstrual cycle starts as the lining of the uterus gets thickened while preparing for the monthly release of the egg out of one of the ovaries.

Once the egg is released in the follicle, it becomes available for fertilization for only about a single day. Even when the egg is not linked to a sperm during this time, the uterine lining will still remain thick for a period of next two weeks.

When the egg remains unfertilized and a pregnancy does not occur, the uterus will end up shedding its thickened lining. This shedding of lining occurs in the form of monthly bleeding or periods. A typical period is known to last for around a week at the maximum. At the same time, normal menstrual flow can be light and slow, heavy and fast, and anything in between.

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C] What are Abnormally Heavy Periods?

Around one in every three women at some point of the entire reproductive span, face an irregular period and it might not be a cause to worry at all.  Which is why it is necessary to determine if you are suffering heavy irregular bleeding during your period.

Because unusually heavy period can lead to:

  • Rapid soaking making you change tampons or pads at least once every hour, for extended hours in a row
  • Heavier flow during nighttime disrupting your sleep and requiring to change constantly for added protection
  • Menstrual flow featuring heavy period and blood clots of the size of a quarter or even larger

Periods that tend to last longer than a week might also be qualified as abnormally heavy periods, even though the flow wasn’t specifically worrisome or heavy.

D] What are the Common Underlying Causes of Heavy Periods?

Heavy menstrual bleeding might occur on its own. In some cases, it could also be accompanied by associated symptoms or signs, including infertility, swelling, pain, and so on. Menorrhagia could have one or more underlying causes, including:

  1. Non-cancerousGrowths: Uterine, endometrial, and cervical polyps are serious conditions that can also lead to heavy periods.
  1. Hormone-related Problems: In many cases, heavy bleeding during the menstrual cycle is mostly due to the hormonal imbalance of the reproductive system. This hormonal imbalance is referred to as PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. However, there can be other hormonal causes such as insulin resistance, a thyroid issue, or some other hormone-related problem. Keep in mind, heavy periods can also be a hormone-related sign of menopause, signifying the end of your menstruation.
  1. Precancerous and Cancerous Conditions: Heavy periods can be a sign of cervical or uterine cancer. It could also imply a precancerous condition in the form of endometrial hyperplasia. Endometrial hyperplasia is a condition of the female reproductive system where the uterus lining becomes unusually While it is not a cancer, it increases the risk of a woman developing endometrial cancer, which is a type of uterine cancer.
  1. Bleeding Disorders: Around 10 percent of women experiencing heavy bleeding may have some type of bleeding disorder. A bleeding disorder is a condition which makes it difficult for their bodies to develop clots easily. In addition to causing a prolonged or heavy menstrual flow, bleeding disorders have far more severe complications especially if the egg gets fertilized and the woman gets pregnant. The complication can be high both during & after childbirth.
  1. Sexually Transmitted Infections: STDs or Sexually Transmitted Diseases or infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea are mostly likely to cause light bleeding or spotting between periods. Still issues like PID or Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases can lead to heavier periods along with chronic pelvic pain.
  1. Specific Medications: Specific medications such as certain drugs including blood thinners can also lead to heavy periods.
  1. Ovarian Cysts: Cysts are sacs that are filled with liquid. Cysts are usually formed in the ovaries or on the surface of the ovaries. In some cases, they might end up bursting. This could lead to heavy bleeding during periods.
  1. Obesity: While obesity has been associated with several serious health conditions, it has also been linked to heavy periods. When you have extra fat in your body, it could lead to the production of excess estrogen. This is responsible for irregular or heavy periods.
  1. IUD Issues: In case the IUD in your body is not positioned properly, it could also lead to heavy bleeding.
  1. Ovulation Issues: Hormones are responsible for guiding the process of ovulation. It is the process in which an egg gets released from the ovary every month. When your hormone levels are not under control, you might not experience the process of ovulation at all. The uterine lining might develop excessively while also bleeding unpredictably and excessively.

E] Treating Heavy Periods

It is recommended to not ignore the signs of heavy bleeding during monthly periods, especially if this is a pattern. There is no requirement of suffering from excessive bleeding every month.

When you do so, it could have a major impact on your overall health. Rather, it is recommended to take help from a women’s health expert at a well women clinic to understand the underlying cause and work upon it effectively.

A health specialist will start by examining your underlying symptoms and conditions. If possible, try to track your menstrual cycles as well as symptoms for a few months before booking your appointment. This data could be useful in determining the exact cause. The specialist might recommend a bunch of tests including pelvic examination,  hysteroscopy, or an ultrasound test. These tests are essential since they help the healthcare specialist review the uterus along with other reproductive organs.

Once you receive your diagnosis, your health specialist will suggest an appropriate treatment plan for you.

  • In some cases, hormonal birth control can be an effective treatment when it comes to managing unusually heavier periods. It can help in regulating ovulation if you are experiencing a condition like PCOS or endometriosis.
  • In case of a severe condition, you might require the assistance of an invasive surgery, like endometrial ablation. Surgical treatment procedures for menorrhagia include Dilation and curettage, Uterine artery embolization, Focused ultrasound surgery, myomectomy, endometrial ablation. Each of these procedures treats a specific problem causing heavy periods.

While Surgical treatments are essential for treating some severe issues, keep in mind that it’s possible to treat minor issues with medications. Therefore, you should consider paying a visit to an expert who can properly diagnose and treat your heavy period problem. Therefore, it is usually recommended to try out other possible treatment options if you wish to get pregnant in the coming future.

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One of the key takeaways from this guide is if you are experiencing heavy menstrual flow you should seek help from a women’s healthcare specialist. This menstrual flow could be heavier or last longer than the normal period span, both of which are serious concerns if they happen frequently along with severe menstrual cramps and menstrual insomnia. Thankfully, a thorough examination is all it would take to unveil the underlying causes of your unusually heavy period.

Many of the conditions can be easily treated with medications, therapy and D&C Treatments for heavy periods. But if you leave these conditions untreated, they might exacerbate these conditions and leave you no option but to resort to surgical treatment. When performed by an expert, these surgical treatments have the highest chances of success, which is why it is essential to find a reputed healthcare professional to treat your underlying condition that has been causing you to bleed heavily during your periods.

Neha Goel

Neha Goel, a Psychology alumna and MBA graduate from CASS Business School, London, brings together her expertise as a Reiki Practitioner and Practice Manager. She integrates psychology and business strategies to foster holistic well-being and personal development.