Heavy Periods 101
Heavy periods can be common for some people, and a lot of the time, they can be nothing to worry too much about, though often uncomfortable and painful.
The NHS categorises heavy periods as those that:
- Require regular changing of tampons, towels or menstrual cups (every 1-2 hours)
- Require the use of 2 types of sanitary product together, such as a pad and a tampon
- Last more than 7 days
- Pass blood clots larger than about 2.5cm (the size of a 10p coin)
- Bleed through to your clothes or bedding
- Discourage you from activities such as exercise, or force you to take time off work because of them
- Make you feel tired or short of breath a lot
It is common for heavy periods to also be accompanied by moderate to severe pain. 80% of women experience period pains, with 5-10% saying their pain is intense enough to disrupt their life.
It can be considered normal to have heavy periods. By this we mean that there may be no underlying concern. However, it is important to not suffer in silence if your periods are causing you discomfort or pain.
Some common reasons:
- Having your first period after pregnancy
There are also some underlying health conditions which could result in heavy periods:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
Heavy periods could also be the result of medications such as anticoagulants and chemotherapy medications. In rare cases they could be a sign of cancer of the womb.
When to see a doctor:
If your periods are impacting your daily life in any way, speak to your GP. They will be able to rule out any underlying conditions and advise you about treatment for your symptoms.
If there are no underlying conditions which are resulting in your heavy periods, your GP may advise any of the following:
- Taking over the counter pain relief medication
- Prescription for tranexamic acid (which will help reduce bleeding)
- Some types of contraception, such as the combined pill or intrauterine system (IUS) could help with heavy periods
Lifestyle measures can also help ease symptoms:
- Warm baths with essential oils
- Back and stomach massages
- Hot water bottles
- Gentle exercise (such as yoga) can help the body relax and promote blood flow in the pelvic area
- Stopping smoking: smoking is thought to reduce the supply of oxygen to the pelvic area, making symptoms worse
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Consider supplementing Vitamin E
- Consider supplementing evening primrose oil, which is a rich source of gamma linolenic acid (GLA) which can help with hormone balance
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