How to manage heavy periods

Heavy periods (scientifically known as Menorrhagia) can be inconvenient and painful. They can also 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.  Read on to find out how to manage heavy periods, along with the causes and symptoms.

All you need to know on how to manage heavy periods

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. For many, high blood loss during their period is not unusual.

If you think that your periods are heavier than average, or have noticed an increase in bleeding, it’s best to explore why this is happening. This can help you understand your body better and take appropriate steps to deal with the problem.

What is a heavy period?

The medical term for heavy or prolonged bleeding during your menstrual cycle is menorrhagia. As many as 1 in 3 of us describe their periods as heavy, however, their bleeding may not be significant enough to be classified as Menorrhagia. The definition of ‘heavy periods’ is actually tricky to pin down, as it can vary by individual and by cycle.

The NHS defines a heavy period as ‘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 the cup has millilitre markings on it.

1 in 3 of us describe our periods as heavy

Symptoms of heavy periods

Use this handy checklist of symptoms if you think you are having a heavy period:

  • Do you have to change your period 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 reason for heavy periods. Your lifestyle, diet, age or contraception among other things can all play a role.

Your age

Your age 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 going through the perimenopause can also experience disordered and heavy bleeding. The Mooncup menstrual cup can be a great option at this time, as it collects menstrual fluid rather than absorbing it, meaning you can use it no matter how heavy or light your menstrual flow is.

Contraception

Your method of contraception is another piece of the period puzzle. Some hormonal contraceptive may stop or reduce your periods altogteher, but others, depending on the type and how you respond to it, may cause heavier periods. For example, if you have a copper IUD (“the coil”) your periods may become heavier and longer. If your periods continue to be much heavier or longer after starting a new form of hormonal contraception, it’s best to speak to your GP or sexual health provider.

Stress

Stress can also have a big impact on your periods. This 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 causes your body to 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.

Childbirth

It is common for your periods to change after having a baby, 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 your blood loss is much more heavier than before, or you are having small blood clots during your period that last longer than a week, you should speak to your GP.

How to manage heavy periods, 4 ways

The good news is that there are ways to help you manage heavy periods. However, you should speak to your GP before making any decisions. It is likely they will want to run some tests, check your medical history and rule out any underlying conditions before suggesting a solution.

How to manage heavy periods

1. Medical and alternative therapy options

There is a range of treatments available. The most suitable option for you will depend on your personal preference, medical history and the likely cause of your heavy periods. Medical options include types of hormonal therapies, such as a hormonal contraceptive pill or the IUS. Other non-hormonal medications could also help: ask your GP for more information about your options.

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.

2. Herbal supplements

Some people report that certain herbal supplements, natural remedies or alternative therapies can help to reduce heavy periods and manage their symptoms. It’s 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.

3. Switch to the Mooncup

The Mooncup is a great option for those suffering from heavy periods. It’s reusable and you only need one, which means real monthly savings, especially if you’re having to change your tampons or pads often. The Mooncup also holds 3 x more than a regular tampon, so it will give you longer lasting protection on those heavier days. Want some extra reassurance? Read what real Mooncup users with heavy periods have got to say.

4. Exercise

Regular light exercise can often help with the symptoms of your period. We know that exercising 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 doctor, 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. Listen to your body and learn about your cycle so you can recognise any changes and take action.

When to see a doctor for your heavy period

Don’t feel nervous about booking an appointment to do something about heavy flow. If you are concerned, try your best to keep track of your flow. 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 doctor to determine the reason behind your heavy 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 can do this by using the markings on your Mooncup as mentioned above, or by the number and type of tampons or pads you need to use.

Fibroids

Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop in or around the womb. They can cause heavy or painful periods.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as in the pelvis, ovaries and fallopian tubes.

Hormone imbalance

Your menstrual cycle is regulated by hormones. A balance between the hormones oestrogen and progesterone control the growth of the lining of the uterus, which sheds during your period. If hormones become imbalanced (for example due to stress), the lining of the uterus can develop in excess and result in heavy periods. Heavy bleeding can also be a sign of an underlying thyroid condition that may be causing a hormonal imbalance.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a common condition which affects how the ovaries work. It can cause irregular periods, and periods can sometimes be heavy when they restart.

Bleeding disorders

Although they are rare, certain bleeding disorders can lower the body’s ability to 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.

Complications related to heavy periods: anaemia

Heavy periods (as well as normal periods on occasion) can cause anaemia; a reduction in red blood cells within the body. Symptoms of anaemia can include paleness, fatigue, ulcers on the side of the mouth or 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.

The Mooncup and how to manage heavy periods

Did you know that we offer a unique Advice Service run by medical health professionals, who can be contacted with any Mooncup usage queries? Do not hesitate to get in touch with us regarding heavy periods and using a Mooncup. Here to help you make the switch.

Get to #knowyournormal. Find out more about the Mooncup and get yours here

Read more on the Mooncup blog:
What is Endometriosis? Everything you need to know
The colour of you period: what does it mean?
What are the different types of vaginal discharge and what do they mean?
What are the five gynaecological cancers and their symptoms?
Why are we afraid of blood?
What is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder?