What Causes Heavy Periods?

Dr. Tariq MiskryDr. Tariq Miskry

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Dr Tariq Miskry, Consultant Gynaecologist & Obstetrician

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Heavy periods can be draining.
And can really hurt. We know!

However, knowing what causes heavy periods can take some of the anxiety out of the experience.

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1 What's normal?

Some heavy flow during your period is usually normal. Many women commonly have heavy flow days and cramps during their period.

A main reason for a heavy period is your natural hormone cycle. Your period is caused by a series of hormones (natural chemical substances produced by your body). These hormones – mainly progesterone and estrogen – also determine how heavy your menstrual flow is.

Your menstrual flow is usually heaviest for the first day or two of your period, and then tends to get lighter gradually over the course of your period.

Heavy periods can also be caused by changes in your routine over the past few months. Sometimes, you simply have to look back in time and try to understand how your heavy periods can be explained.

Things like drastic weight loss or gain, an extreme exercise regime, a change in your diet, medical conditions, or even stress can all prompt the hormone changes that cause heavy periods.

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2 How do I know if my period is too heavy?

It’s good to look out for signs that your period is significantly heavier than normal.

What Are the Symptoms of Heavy Periods? Heavy period symptoms include heavier than usual flow, a longer than usual period (like more than a week long), and intense cramps. You can also feel very tired, weak, out of breath and not able to find the energy to go out and practice your favourite sport.

You can also spot abnormal heavy periods if you feel you have to change your pad more regularly than usual.

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3 When to see a doctor

Extremely heavy periods that get in the way of your life should not be ignored. If you find that you experience heavy menstrual bleeding, or your period is abnormally heavy, this could be a sign that you have a condition called menorrhagia , which means “heavy periods”.

Here are some heavy period symptoms that could mean you have menorrhagia:

  1. You bleed through a menstrual pad or tampon every hour for more than two hours straight

  2. You notice sudden gushes in your flow

  3. You bleed for a week or longer

  4. You need to wake up in the middle of the night to change your pad

Menorrhagia is usually caused by an underlying medical condition that can be addressed by your doctor. So, if you think you have menorrhagia, see your doctor.Knowing some of the causes of heavy menstrual bleeding can help facilitate your doctor’s appointment.Some of the reasons for heavy periods that your doctor might discuss with you include:

  1. Inherited bleeding disorders

  2. Uterine fibroids, non-cancerous tumours on your uterus

  3. Polyps, small, benign growths on your uterine lining

  4. Certain medications

Remember to go prepared to your appointment!

Your doctor will want to know when your period starts and stops, how many pads or tampons you go through in a day and whether they’re soaked through, and how you feel when you’re on your period (i.e. what your period symptoms are).

Keep a note on your phone and bring it along with you to your doctor visit.

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