Heavy periods, also called menorrhagia, is when a woman loses an excessive amount of blood during consecutive periods.
Menorrhagia can occur by itself or in combination with other symptoms, such as menstrual pain (dysmenorrhoea).
Heavy bleeding does not necessarily mean there is anything seriously wrong, but it can affect a woman physically, emotionally and socially, and can cause disruption to everyday life.
Defining heavy bleeding
It is difficult to define exactly what a heavy period is because the amount of blood lost during a period can vary considerably between women.
The average amount of blood lost during a period is 30-40ml, with 9 out of 10 women losing less than 80ml. Therefore, heavy menstrual bleeding is considered to be 60-80ml (millilitres) or more in each cycle.
However, it is rarely necessary to measure blood loss. Most women have a good idea about how much bleeding is normal for them during their period and can tell when this amount increases or decreases.
A good indication that your blood loss is excessive is if:
- you feel you are using an unusually high number of tampons or pads
- you experience flooding (heavy bleeding) through to your clothes or bedding
- you need to use tampons and towels together
In most cases, no underlying cause of heavy periods is identified. However, some conditions and treatments have been linked to menorrhagia, including:
- uterine fibroids
- polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUDs)
- anticoagulant medication
Recurring heavy periods can also occur in some women. This is called dysfunctional uterine bleeding and is the cause of heavy periods in four to six out of ten cases. In this condition the uterus (womb) and ovaries are normal. It is not a hormonal problem. Ovulation is often normal and the periods are usually regular. It is more common if you have recently started your periods or if you are approaching the menopause. At these times you may find your periods are irregular as well as heavy.
The Gynaecologist at the London Medical and Aesthetic clinic will be able to diagnose heavy periods from your symptoms alone.
The cause of your menorrhagia may sometimes need to be investigated further. Usually, this involves a pelvic examination and a blood test.
If a cause is still not found, then you may have an ultrasound scan.
Treating heavy periods
In some cases, heavy periods do not need to be treated, as they can be a natural variation and may not disrupt your lifestyle.
If treatment is necessary, medication is most commonly used first. However, it may take a while to find the medication most suitable for you, as their effectiveness is different for everyone and some also act as contraceptives.
If medication doesn’t work, surgery may also be an option. This is known as a Hyterectomy , which is the removal of the uterus.This surgical procedure is only appropriate for women who do not wish to have any more children.
If a diagnosis of an underlying condition is made, then the treatment will be tailored towards that condition. This can be discussed with our gynaecologist at the London Medical and Aesthetic clinic.