Understanding Heavy Periods So You Can Find Relief
The compassionate women's health providers at Gainesville and Lake City's All About Women discuss when to seek treatment for heavy periods.
If your period is heavy, you might just accept it as part of your life. While heavy periods are common (...the CDC estimates 1/5 women suffer from heavy bleeding), it's important for you to know that these periods are not normal.
Even more important, there are lots of effective treatment options available.
Missed work, sleep disturbances, and major alterations to your daily life during your period are all signs that you could be suffering a heavy period.
Continue reading for more background information about heavy periods, along with causes and treatment options.
What Doctors Define as a Heavy Period
Menorrhagia is the medical term that refers to periods that are either very heavy and/or last longer than seven days. Your period may also be considered heavy if:
- You lose more than 80 mL of blood (...normal blood loss is around 30 mL)
- You must get up to change your tampon or pad during the night, or every hour for several hours
- You have to double up on pads or use a pad with a tampon to prevent leaking
- You have a constant pain in your lower stomach during your period
If you're of the scientific bend, you can try to measure your flow from the number of tampons you soak in a period. A soaked maxi pad or super tampon holds about 10ml of blood, meaning that a medically defined heavy flow would soak at least eight of these during a cycle.
Anemia: A Possible Complication of Menorrhagia
The large loss of blood with a heavy period puts you at a higher risk for anemia, which is a condition where your blood is unable to carry enough oxygen to your body, thus causing your organs to not work as well.
According to the CDC, signs of anemia include:
- Fatigue with regular everyday activities
- Shortness of breath
- Irritability or depression
While anemia is easily remedied with the help of your doctor, long-term anemia can cause lasting damage to your body. It's important for you to make an appointment soon if you have heavy periods and signs of anemia.
Causes of Heavy Periods
In many women, the cause of menorrhagia is never known, but a few of the more commonly known ones include:
- Uterine Fibroids (...particularly in women of childbearing age)
- Uterine Polyps (...particularly in women nearing menopause)
- Hormone Imbalances
- Recent Insertion of a copper IUD
But regardless of whether the cause is known or unknown, your GYN physician should be able to treat your heavy periods.
Treatment of Heavy Periods
There are a variety of treatment options (prescription/drug based or surgical) your doctor may suggest depending on your situation. Continue reading for a brief description of the more common approaches.
- Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): These drugs, such as Ibuprofen, are sometimes a first attempt at managing symptoms. They can reduce inflammation and reduce bleeding, but not as much as hormone medications.
- Tranexamic Acid: This blood clotting medication can reduce bleeding better than NSAIDs.
- Hormone Treatment: Your doctor may suggest the hormone progestin to help reduce bleeding. You may take progestin in a pill (birth control) or a vaginal cream, or through the progestin-containing Mirena IUD .
- Hysteroscopy: This procedure may be used to examine the uterus and evaluate for fibroids and polyps. Surgeons then decide how to approach treatment.
- Endometrial Ablation (brand name NovaSure). In this procedure, radio waves are used to destroy the tissue that lines the uterus, which usually ends periods all together. Pregnancy is not possible after this procedure.
- Hysterectomy: This is a major, last resort option in which your gynecological surgeon will remove your entire uterus. Robotic hysterectomies, which we perform at All About Women, offer a less invasive surgery option compared to the traditional approach.
Don't Delay – Seek Help For Your Heavy Periods Today
The women's health physicians, nurses and staff at Gainesville and Lake City's All About Women are dedicated to helping you have the best quality of life. Heavy periods definitely interfere with your quality of life, but can be resolved so you can sleep through the night and not increase your risk of anemia.