When you were younger, you heard your relatives complain about their “women problems,” and now you know why. Your periods seem to last longer every year, and you quickly soak through your pads and tampons.
Heavy periods, though, aren’t normal, so you shouldn’t ignore or try to put up with them. A period that’s especially long or heavy is usually a sign of a benign condition that can be easily treated. Treatment helps avoid potential complications, including infertility.
Caring OB/GYNs Daniel McDyer, MD, FACOG, and Julian Stephen Suhrer, MD, evaluate and treat abnormal bleeding at their two Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville offices in Jacksonville, Florida. Here, they define what “heavy” bleeding is, some of its common causes, and how to get help.
What is normal bleeding?
A normal menstrual period only lasts between 4-7 days. If you bleed for longer than that, or if your periods are extremely heavy, then you’re considered to have abnormal bleeding, a condition that’s called menorrhagia.
Menorrhagia isn’t just uncomfortable. If you lose too much blood, you could develop anemia, which is a lower-than-normal number of red blood cells. Anemia may make you feel tired and listless.
How do you determine if your bleeding is within normal limits, or too heavy? Here are a few signs that you’re bleeding too heavily:
- Changing your tampon or pad every hour or so for several hours
- Passing blood clots that are at least as big as a quarter
- Wearing a tampon with a pad to catch the overflow
- Waking up at night to change your tampon or pad
- Bleeding for more than seven days
- Bleeding or spotting between periods
Contact the Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville office nearest you if you have heavy bleeding or if you suffer from the symptoms of anemia.
Common causes of heavy bleeding
Your gynecologist determines the reasons why you’re bleeding too much or for too long by conducting a physical exam, taking a personal history, and ordering tests, such as an ultrasound test and blood test.
Ultrasound may help them identify any abnormalities in your reproductive organs that could cause your heavy bleeding. Some of the reasons you’re bleeding longer or more heavily than normal could include:
Women in their childbearing years frequently develop growths on or in their uterus called fibroids. Fibroids can grow large enough to complicate conception or pregnancy. You might also have benign polyps in your uterine lining.
At the onset of menstruation and as you head into perimenopause and menopause, your hormones may become so unbalanced that you create too thick a uterine lining, which then results in heavy bleeding. You could also have a hormone-related disorder called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), that causes prolonged bleeding and may compromise your fertility.
When your ovaries don’t release an egg at the start of your menstrual cycle, your uterine lining may grow overly thick.
Adenomyosis or endometriosis
Your endometrium is the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus. During each menstrual cycle, your endometrium thickens with another layer that’s made up of the blood it collects to nourish a potential baby. If you don’t get pregnant, your endometrium sheds its upper layer, and you menstruate.
In adenomyosis, the same kinds of cells that make up your endometrium become embedded in your uterine wall. In endometriosis, the endometrial cells adhere to other structures, including the outer uterus, and ovaries. In both cases, these endometrial tissues become engorged with blood during your monthly cycle, but can’t shed as easily, causing pain and prolonged bleeding.
Your heavy bleeding could also be caused by other factors, including medications you’re taking or medical conditions, including pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and cancer.
How to treat heavy bleeding
Your Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville OB/GYN custom-designs a treatment plan for you based on the factors involved in your heavy bleeding. You may benefit from oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which rebalances your hormones and could shrink benign growths. If you have large fibroids, polyps, or endometrial abnormalities, your OB/GYN may recommend simple surgical procedures to give you relief.
Don’t treat heavy bleeding like it isn’t a big deal. Get the care and relief you deserve by contacting us by phone or online appointment form.