9 things you should know if you have heavy periods

Heavy periods? Welcome to the club. Excessive menstrual bleeding is medically known as Menorrhagia, but to us it’s just a nuisance.

Given that there’s no such thing as a normal period, what exactly constitutes as a heavy period?

Medical folk define a heavy period as blood loss of 80ml or more each cycle – but hey, who’s able to count mls when there’s a ruby tsunami going on?

Suffice to say, if you’re soaking through high absorbency tampons or towels every two hours (or less), have periods that last more than 7 days, and even thinking about white trousers makes you break out in a cold sweat, then it sounds like you’re a fully paid up member of the Menorrhagia gang.  So here’s a few things you might like to know…

heavy periods

1 Aaghh! A clot!

Fear not, they might look yucky, but clots are usually nothing to worry about. When your womb lining sheds during a period, your body’s anti-coagulants kick in to thin things down. But like the rest of us, they can only work so fast. If your period’s heavy the poor old anti-coagulants can’t keep up with the rate of the blood flow, which is why you end up getting dark red jam-like bits. Not a thing of joy by any standards, but all perfectly normal. That said, if you’re consistently getting clots more than inch big, or they’re pink or grey then get checked out as there might be something else going on.

2 Blame the hormones

Those pesky hormones of ours have a lot to answer for because having heavy periods is often down to a plain old hormonal imbalance. At different times in our cycle our oestrogen and progesterone levels go up and down; which is what they’re meant to do. But if the levels stay high – especially oestrogen – then the lining of the uterus can thicken and that results in heavy or painful periods. The good news is that there are ways to balance your hormones… we’ll come to that later.

Heavy Periods

3 (Though it’s sometimes an age thing…)

Heavy bleeding isn’t directly related to age, but there are times in our lives when we can be more prone to it – and again that comes down to those cheeky hormone blighters. Teenagers who have just started their periods, and women approaching the menopause are prime examples. And when we say ‘approaching’ the menopause, changes in your period can happen from your late thirties onwards. Which can come as a shock, especially if you’ve always been quite light.

4 Sudden change? Get it checked out.

As well as hormone imbalances, heavy periods can be caused by fibroids (non-cancerous tumours in the womb), endometriosis (bits of the womb ending up elsewhere), pelvic inflammatory disease, thyroid issues, blood disorders and sometimes, cancer. If your period has suddenly changed – whether it’s heavier bleeding, bleeding for longer, a change in cycle – then get it checked out, especially if the blood is orange or grey.

The cause of most heavy bleeding is hormonal, but it’s best talking to your GP if your period significantly changes.

5 Magnesium is your friend

It’s a clever thing is magnesium. It helps activate the enzymes which control our absorption of fats, glucose and carbs. Being low on magnesium is one of the reasons we crave sugary foods before our period, so making sure we’re getting enough is one of our best defences against the hypnotic power of the chocolate aisle.

chocolate for heavy periods

What’s also pretty special about magnesium is that it also acts as a gentle muscle relaxant. This means it can help ease those strong contractions in your uterus – the very ones that cause cramps and heavy bleeding. So stock up on dark leafy veg. wholegrains, seeds and nuts.

And chocolate.

Yes, you did read that correctly, but it has to be the dark kind with at least 70% plus cocoa which is nice and rich in magnesium. As far as healthy eating goes, that one gets a huge tick from us.

Magnesium rich foods:

  • Spinach 157 milligrams (40% DV)
  • Dark Chocolate 95 milligrams (24% DV)
  • Almonds 80 milligrams (20% DV)
  • Avocado 1 medium: 58 milligrams  (15% DV)
  • Banana (medium) 32 milligrams (8% DV)  Source: draxe.com

6 Zzzzzz

Wakey wakey! If you’ve found yourself dosing off during the day or feel tired even after a good night’s sleep, your heavy periods might well be the culprit. The more blood you lose, the likelier it is for your haemoglobin levels to drop which can result in iron deficiency anaemia. Because haemoglobin is the stuff that carries oxygen around our bodies, even mild anaemia can leave us feeling pretty drained. More severe anaemia can cause breathlessness, dizziness and headaches. Not good.

So let’s get pumping that iron.

The first place to start is your diet; red meat, poultry and seafood are great sources of iron. For us vegetarians and vegans we need to eat more pulses, leafy veg, dried fruit (especially apricots), peas and soya. Having a side helping of Vitamin C with your iron-rich food helps its absorption; a glass of orange or grapefruit juice, a portion of broccoli, tomatoes or peppers will do wonders.

Heavy Periods & Hungry

Think you might be anaemic? Your GP or practice nurse can do a simple blood test. If you are, you’ll probably be prescribed a course of ferrous sulphate (iron tablets) to get your levels back to normal. It’s best not to self-medicate with iron supplements, as an excess of iron brings its own problems.

7 Be like Bridget

We owe it to ourselves not to let heavy periods interfere with our lives. So, if your periods are heavy (or anything else that’s annoying) then keep a period diary. Okay, so it’s not going to be as riveting a read as Bridget Jones’s, but it will help to flag up anything that might warrant further investigation. Make a note of when your period starts, when it finishes, any pain, how many tampons or pads (or both) you’re going through and how often you’re flooding through them. If you have all your info to hand when you see your GP, it’ll be much easier for them to work out what might be going on. And lots of women swear by period apps as the new way to keep on track.

8 There’s no need to worry about toilet terrors

When your period’s at its heaviest a trip to the loo can feel like something out of a scene from CSI. For us heavy-flowers it’s not uncommon for even a super-absorbent tampon to only last until we’ve come out the loo and gone downstairs.

Repeatedly flushing a never-ending stream of tampons or towels down the toilets is a blocked pipe catastrophe waiting to happen. The horror show that is a blockage is stomach churning – and that’s even before the plumber’s bill. If you’re already a Winner, er I mean Binner, then you’ll often find yourself using up half a tree in loo roll which does fill that bin up quickly – presuming of course there is one…..So praise be to FabLittleBag, the best way – ever – to dispose of any sanitary gubbins. Bag it, Seal it, Bin it. (P.S. it’s biodegradable).

Because they come in handbag packs too, they’re an absolute must when you’re out and about. Never again will you face the fear of wondering just how effective the flush is in someone else’s loo and if you can get away with it… (oh yes, we’ve all been there.)

FabLittleBag for heavy periods

9 Take control – there are options…

When you’re used to having to carry around your body weight in tampons a few days each month, it’s easy to get into the habit of just dealing with it. We women are masters at that. But if you’re having to plan any trip out with military precision so that you don’t leak between one toilet and the next, or have to wear over-bum jumpers in the height of summer, then it’s high time to show your period who’s boss.

Thanks to the wonders of medicine there are treatments which do actually work.

The Mirena Coil (IUS)

A small plastic device that’s inserted into your womb. It’s essentially a contraceptive, but it’s slowly release of the hormone, progesterone can reduce bleeding by up to 90%. (Source: NHS)

Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill

Or, as it’s better known: The Pill. It can help regulate your cycle and reduce heavy bleeding – roughly by 40%. (Source: NHS)

Tranexamic Acid (Cyklokapron)

These tablets work by breaking down blood clots, which in turn helps to prevent prolonged bleeding. It’s reckoned they can reduce blood loss of up to around 50%. (Source: NHS)

NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs)

Ibruprofen, Mefenamic Acid and Naproxen all belong to this family of drugs. They can reduce blood flow from around 20-50%. (Source: NHS)

Heavy Periods

Oral Norethisterone or Injected Progestogen

This man-made progestogen prevents your womb lining growing so quickly. It can reduce heavy bleeding by more than 80%. (Source: NHS)

Uterine artery embolisation (UAE) 

If your heavy periods are caused by fibroids (non-cancerous growths in the womb) this procedure can be used to shrink them and usually involves an overnight hospital stay.

Myomectomy

A surgical procedure to remove fibroids. Though it’s not suitable for every type of fibroid.

Endometrial Ablation

This is where the womb lining is destroyed via one of two ways: a probe that uses microwave energy or a heated balloon that’s inserted into your womb. Both procedures are carried out under a local anesthetic.

Hysterectomy

Gulp. This is the most drastic of all the options. A hysterectomy is when the womb is removed, so after it’s done you won’t be able to have children, plus there’s also a long recovery time afterwards so for most women it’s only considered as a last resort.

Getting by

There’s nothing shameful about having very heavy periods. If we were more open about the subject, chances are we’d come across many other heavy flow sisters. You are definitely not alone. If you find dealing with a mountain of soaking sanitary products a challenge, you’ll be glad to discover FabLittleBag: the best disposal method, period.

These opaque, leak-free bags seal away used tampons and pads, problem sorted. They’re a godsend if you’re out and about and find yourself without a bin, or just to prevent the bathroom bin looking like a murder scene.

If you’re already struggling with a heavy period, here is something that can make the whole process much less of a challenge. Trying is believing, why not give it a go? >> Buy FablittleBag Sanitary Disposal Bags on Amazon here!

Watch our revealing interview with Gynae Geek, aka gynaecologist Dr Anita Mitra, as she explains what’s normal, what’s not and how to get the help you need for heavy periods.

 

 

30 thoughts on “9 things you should know if you have heavy periods

  1. Interesting read. I’ve noticed that if I eat less than usual a few days before I get my period, it’s lighter. Has anyone else noticed this? Cx

  2. That’s interesting Catherine! I’ve heard of diet influencing moods and regularity, but not flow. It could be worth a try, assuming you have the willpower 🙂

  3. If you hate using / the waste of tampons, you can buy hypoallergenic cups that go inside your body like a tampon. They are to be used repeatedly and last for years. They’re reliable (though us heavies prob need to wear a panty liner). Finding out about these was a real breakthrough for me.

    1. So glad that cups work for you Carol! They’re really gaining in popularity, but we’ve found some women just can’t get along with them for all sorts of reasons. Recently there’s been such an explosion of choice in the world of periods which can only be a good thing.

  4. I had heavy, faint-making, excruciating periods for years, but when I became vegetarian they stopped going a problem.

    So it’s worth removing the excess hormones on your plate before tampering with your own x

    1. That’s so interesting Ellie, another vote for looking at your diet to address the problem. We don’t often think of our food as containing hormones and it’s quite an unsettling thought! How brilliant that you’ve found a solution to your heavy periods.

  5. Great article. If you can track it down the Me app (coderouge) helps you track the number of tampons and pads. The NHS choices webpage has a mini questionnaire that describes what counts as a heavy period.

    Also if your getting the brush off from your GP, waft this under their nose Informed Choice? Givi g women choice over their health care.
    http://www.appgwomenshealth.org/news/

    1. Which just goes to show there’s an app for everything these days 🙂 That’s a really helpful link to help arm yourself before going to the GP, thanks Kate. (I love the name coderouge, makes it sound so glamorous!)

  6. I can’t cope anymore, i have been losing blood in various quantity non stop for the past eight months. Sometimes big clots, last big one was similar to size of large orange. I’m so tired all the time and haven’t got anyone to turn to for help. How can I get it to stop…

    1. Hi Terri, that sounds really hard. Your doctor would be the best place to seek advice and they can suggest a specialist if necessary. Our best wishes to you.

  7. I had a baby a year ago an I’ve bled nearly everyday since it’s absolutely horrific to the point am pouring with blood I was on the injection for about two months someone told me that’s why I keep bleeding but tonight its frightening me with how much I’m loosing,there’s clots as well feeling a bit worried

    1. Please don’t hesitate to go to your GP, they should take your problem seriously, and if they don’t, find a new GP! Heavy blood loss should always be investigated. We’ve heard from doctors that some women suffer for years without complaint as they are too shy to discuss periods. Mums are used to putting their baby first but from the sound of it, you need to take extra care of yourself and get the medical help you need. Our very best wishes to you.

  8. I find that drinking raspberry leaf tea (2-3 cups per day) from about a week before my period and then during helps ease things a little. People think I drink it to get pregnant as it helps tone the uterus but the toning helps with period cramps too it seems!

    1. What a great tip! Thanks Charlotte 🙂
      FabLittleBag supports the Wellbeing of Women charity which is conducting some breakthrough research in this area.

  9. Hi, I’m 13 years old and I’m worried as my periods are really heavy, my period is so heavy I bleed through my clothes and it’s horrible, I’m not sure what to do as I’m too scared to speak to my mum but idk how much longer I can bare this , I don’t know wether it has something to do with my health problems ( I have type 1 diabetes) but I want to get help but I’m not fond of the idea of going to my doctors about it, any ideas??

    1. Hi Molly, thanks for getting in touch. You deserve some support here. Periods are a natural part of life and nothing to be embarrassed about, even if we don’t discuss them very often. If you had any other health concern, you would ask your mum or a doctor, but we’re guessing you’re reluctant to because periods are often kept secret. Most mums would be understanding but if you don’t feel comfortable, another trusted adult would be able to help: a school teacher, a school nurse, a neighbour or even dad (not as crazy as it sounds, dads do know periods exist). Doctors help girls with period worries all the time. Heavy periods is a common problem and there are lots of ways that doctors can help. You can ask the receptionist for a female doctor when you make the appointment if you wish, but male doctors know all about periods too. Have a look at this website from a lovely gynaecologist we know, with lots of advice and info (she’s also on Instagram). Being 13 you need support from adults to look after you and fix your problem, rather than struggling on your own. We are fighting to get rid of the shame around periods as it causes needless anxiety for women and girls. We wish you the very best! Let us know how it goes.

    2. Suggest you get off grains, eat only organic meat (hormone free) and take bio identical bio identical progesterone. Also take Iron medicine with vitamin c to replace your blood loss monthly.

  10. My period is extremely heavy and lasts at least 6 months straight & I can’t even live my life the way I wish to because I am constantly changing the pads because they fill up and will leak if I don’t change them, & I’ve been to doctors but they don’t believe me and they don’t seem to care

    1. Hi Abby, we hear this so often! But as I am sure you are aware, that’s not a typical period and doctors CAN and SHOULD be able to help you. If the doctors you have seen so far are not helpful, see yet another doctor, keep going until you get the medical help you need. Can you ask family members to come with you to the doctor to lend moral support? I would even suggest going to A&E so they can check your iron levels and overall health. At FabLittleBag we are not medical doctors so this reply is no substitute for proper help. You can print out this medical article on menorrhagia and hand it to your doctor: https://patient.info/doctor/menorrhagia
      Our very best wishes to you.

    2. Hi Abby,
      I also have extreme periods and had some bleeding that lasted for six weeks straight. My OBGYN gave me a high dose of progesterone for 10 days and it fixed the problem. Talk to your doc. About it.

    3. Hi Abby.

      It’s been a few months. I hope you’ve received some answers?

      Your response resonated with me as I’ve been experiencing heavy prolonged periods as well…

      Any insight or update?

      Best,
      Laura

  11. I had an operation about 5 months ago. And after the operation I didn’t get a period. And now I have had my period for 2 and a half weeks. And its super heavy. And big blood clots keep forming. I don’t understand what happening. Its really bizarre.

    1. Hi Anne, I hope you can get yourself to the doctor for some reassurance and help. Perhaps take some of the suggestions on this page with you and see what the doctor advises. So often we women just muddle along without complaint, but it’s much better to get the help we need, and best for our health too. Wishing you well.

  12. I have been suffering with heavy periods for years and last up to 7 days, I am in my early 30’s.

    I used to use 3 pads at once, changing pads every half a hour to 1 hour and made my life so miserable and depressing!

    Found the encourage to go and see my GP in the end, my GP put me on Tranexamic Acid. OMG I wish I was I was on them years ago, reduced my blood clots so much, so nice to able to wear one pad not 3 and not having to change all the time. Still wear 2 at night, just in case.

    First time I took Tranexamic Acid, I did have one side effect stomach ache but eventually went away!

    You girls out there suffering heavy periods you have my sympathy!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and offering this helpful suggestion. There will be many women and girls who can now ask their doctor about whether this treatment would be right for them. Our best wishes to you.

  13. Definately go for the acid. I’ve had long cycle 7/8 day heavy periods for years and the acid was a life changing discovery.
    Envy these women who lose a teaspoon of blood. Not my experience at all !

  14. I have had extremely heavy periods and contraction like pain for two weeks. Increased my intake of red meat which had really helped.

  15. I have one of those silicon cups. That is actually how I discovered that I had this condition. There are milliliter markings and I was producing 60 mL of fluid in an hour! That’s what many women produce in 5 days! So, it’s great in that it doesn’t leak, but I wouldn’t use one on a heavy day unless you have plenty of toilet access and don’t mind the messy hands.

    1. Hi Kelley, that’s a great way of keeping track and quantifying your flow for doctors! I hope you’ve had good support for your condition.

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