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How To Manage Heavy Periods
If you suffer from heavy periods (scientifically known as Menorrhagia), you’ll know that not only can they be inconvenient and painful, they can keep you from participating in social activities and generally getting out and about. But there’s no need to suffer in silence. Heavy periods are one of the most common reasons for women to visit their GP; 1 in 20 women consult their GP every year about heavy periods, so don’t feel nervous about booking an appointment to do something about them.
Research suggests that the average amount of menstrual fluid that leaves the body per cycle is around 30-40 ml (which equals 4-8 teaspoons of blood). However, periods vary from person to person and for many, high blood loss during their menstrual cycle can be a common occurrence.
If you think that your periods are heavier than average, or have noticed an increase in menstrual bleeding, then it makes sense to explore why this is happening in order to understand your body better and take appropriate action to deal with the problem.
In this article, we’ll be looking into what constitutes a heavy period, what causes them and what steps you can take to manage them.
What is a heavy period (Menorrhagia)?
Before we dive into possible solutions to heavy periods, let’s first talk about what defines them and what factors can cause them.
Menorrhagia is the medical term for heavy or prolonged bleeding during your menstrual cycle. Many experience blood loss that they would describe as heavy, but which may not be significant enough to be classified as menorrhagia. This makes the broader definition of ‘heavy periods’ tricky to pin down, as it can vary by individual and by cycle.
The NHS suggests that a heavy period is ‘losing 80ml or more in each period, having periods that last longer than 7 days, or both’. You can track approximately how much blood you lose by using a Mooncup as it has ml markings on the cup.
Symptoms of heavy periods
You can use this handy checklist of symptoms to help you gauge if you are having a heavy period:
- Do you have to change your sanitary products every hour or two?
- Are you passing blood clots larger than 2.5cm (about the size of a 10p coin)?
- Are you bleeding through onto your clothes or bedding?
- Do you need to use two types of sanitary product together – for example, tampons and pads?
What causes heavy periods?
There is no single cause for heavy periods; among other things, your lifestyle, diet, age or contraception can all play a role.
Age can be one factor that may affect your periods. Teenagers are more likely to experience heavy and irregular periods in the first year of menstruation as their bodies get used to the changes and influx of hormones. On the flip side those in the peri-menopausal phase can also experience disordered and heavy bleeding. The Mooncup can be great for unpredictable bleeding as the same one can be used no matter how heavy or light your flow.
Contraception and your cycle
Your method of contraception is another piece of the period puzzle. On the one hand hormonal contraception could stop or reduce your periods but on the other, depending on the type and how you respond to it, it may cause heavier periods. For example; if you have an IUD (commonly called “the coil”), a small copper device that is inserted into your uterus by a medical professional, this can make your periods heavier and longer. If your periods continue to be much heavier or longer after starting a new form of hormonal contraception you should seek advice from your GP or sexual health provider.
The impact of stress on menstruation
Stress can also have a big impact on your periods, which makes perfect sense when you consider how significantly stress can affect your whole body. Your menstrual cycle is regulated by hormones and the delicate balance can be upset when stress makes your body produce higher levels of hormones like cortisol. This can cause irregular periods, as well as a build-up in your uterine lining which can lead to heavier periods.
Medical reasons for heavy periods
There are a number of more serious causes for a heavy period. If you are concerned, keep a note of the frequency, duration and amount of blood loss you experience (you could do this by using the markings on a menstrual cup as mentioned above, or by the number and type of tampons or pads you need to use) and seek your GP’s advice as they should be able to help.
Non-cancerous growths that develop in or around the womb. They can cause heavy or painful periods.
This is where the tissue that lines the womb is found outside the womb, such as in the ovaries and fallopian tubes (although this is more likely to cause painful periods rather than heavy bleeding).
During the menstrual cycle, a balance between the hormones oestrogen and progesterone regulates the build-up of the lining of the uterus (endometrium), which sheds during menstruation. If a hormone imbalance occurs (for example due to stress), the lining of the uterus can develop in excess and result in heavy menstrual bleeding. Additionally heavy periods can be a sign of an underlying thyroid condition that may be causing a hormonal imbalance.
A common condition which affects how the ovaries function; it can cause irregular periods, and periods can sometimes be heavy when they restart.
Although they are rare, certain bleeding disorders can impair the body’s ability to coagulate (clot your blood) and consequently result in abnormal periods. For example conditions such as Von Willebrand’s Disease, a blood clotting disorder, can make it take longer for bleeding to stop.
Managing heavy periods
Heavy periods (as well as normal periods on occasion) can cause anaemia; a reduction in red blood cells (haemoglobin) within the body. Symptoms of anaemia can include: paleness, fatigue, ulcerations on the side of the mouth and dizziness. If you’re anaemic or suffer from heavy menstrual bleeding, your doctor might prescribe iron supplements or recommend including more iron rich foods in your diet.
Changes in menstruation after childbirth
It is common for your periods to change after childbirth, though each individual’s experience will be different. Once your periods return you may experience lighter or heavier periods, irregular periods, painful cramping, as well as small blood clots. If you experience blood loss that is much more significant than before, or small blood clots during your period that last longer than a week, you should speak to your GP.
How to relieve heavy periods
The good news is that there are ways to help relieve heavy periods. However, we recommend speaking to your GP before making any decisions, as it is likely they will want to run some tests, check your medical history and any underlying conditions before suggesting a solution.
Heavy periods treatment options
There are a range of treatment’s available and the most suitable option for you will depend on your personal preference, medical history, and the likely cause of your heavy periods. Medical options could include various types of hormonal therapy such as a hormonal contraceptive pill or the IUS (a progestogen releasing Intrauterine System device). Additionally there may be other non-hormonal medications available that could help; you can discuss these with your GP. Bear in mind, if you’re considering using an IUD or IUS alongside the Mooncup® we would recommend you first discuss this with your IUD fitter or GP.
Some people also report that certain herbal supplements, natural remedies or alternative therapies can help reduce heavy periods and manage their symptoms. As always, its best to discuss any alternative therapies or supplements that you’re considering with your GP as some supplements can interact with certain types of medication.
How can a Mooncup help heavy periods?
A Mooncup can help deal with the inconvenience and expense of heavy periods; they are reusable, so you don’t have to worry about spending money and time purchasing sanitary products if you need to change them regularly. They also hold 3 x more than a regular tampon, so the Mooncup can give you longer lasting protection on those heavier days. Want some extra reassurance? Read our Mooncup heavy period testimonials.
Regular and moderate exercise can often help with the symptoms of your period. We know that working out can be the last thing you feel like doing on your period, but it doesn’t have to be an intense workout! Even gentle exercise can boost your endorphins to cope better with heavy periods.
Knowing your cycle
Everyone’s period is different, so having a heavy cycle isn’t necessarily a cause for concern. If you do decide to visit your GP however, they will most likely ask about your medical history and your usual period experience. They may also perform a physical exam and recommend you see a gynaecologist (a doctor who specialises in women’s reproductive health).
If you are concerned about your period, try your best to keep track of it. There are many period tracking apps out there to log the start and end date, quantity of blood and any bleeding in between periods. This information can help your GP determine the reason behind your heavy periods. Listen to your body and learn about your cycle so you can recognise any changes and take action.
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