Every woman is different, and so are each woman’s periods. Some women hardly suffer from their periods, while others suffer greatly from it, so much so that it disrupts their normal lives. This is due not only to typical ailments such as abdominal cramps, bloating, and headaches but also to the abundant blood loss that many women suffer during this period of the month.
All too often, these women resign themselves to their fate or do not realize that there may be an underlying problem at the root of which there is a solution. A visit to the gynecologist is therefore definitely recommended if you yourself suffer from severe blood loss during your periods.
What are heavy periods?
How do you know when your periods are more severe than average? Not really something you can measure, is it? According to medical standards, periods normally last 2 to 7 days (an average of 4 days) and are about 35 to 40 mL in volume. A volume of more than 80 mL is considered abnormal.
Since it is difficult to measure, today most doctors consider menstruation problematic based on symptoms or if it negatively affects the quality of life of the patient.
Is your period so heavy that it affects your physical, emotional, and social life? Do you often have to miss school or work during your period? Can you go more than an hour without a new sanitary pad or tampon? Does the result of a blood draw indicate an iron deficiency?
Then your periods are probably problematic and you should visit your gynecologist.
Talk to your doctor
Periods are not a disease after all… Then why do I have to go to the doctor? You’re not the only one asking this question. According to a study conducted in the UK, 74% of women wait more than a year before making an appointment with their doctor due to complaints of severe blood loss during menstruation.
However, your doctor can help you identify the cause of the heavy periods and thus look for a way to relieve or eliminate your symptoms. The most well-known causes of severe blood loss are the presence of polyps or endometriosis, but it may as well be that you have a blood clotting disorder.
Such a clotting disorder, with von Willebrand’s disease as the most common, is a rare disease, but apparently still the culprit in 20% of all women who suffer from severe blood loss during menstruation.
Main causes of heavy periods
To be able to treat menorrhagia and benefit from appropriate treatment, you must first identify the causes:
Heavy periods can be linked to hormonal fluctuations (excess estrogen, insufficient progesterone, etc.). The ovaries produce estrogen which allows the development of the endometrium (the epithelial layer that lines the inner walls of the uterus). If estrogen is secreted in excess, the endometrium tends to thicken too much, causing heavier periods.
The presence of a tumor
The presence of benign tumors such as polyps or uterine fibroids can cause heavier periods. These benign tumors grow on the lining of the uterine cavity.
The presence of adenomyosis, a form of endometriosis that is characterized by the development of endometrial cells inside the uterine wall, or other endometrial pathology (atrophy, hyperplasia, cancer) can cause heavy periods.
More rarely, too heavy periods can be linked to an abnormality in blood coagulation (Willebrand’s disease for example). In this case, the personal and family medical history of hemorrhage (bleeding from the nose or gums, easy bruising) can guide the diagnosis.
Heavy periods can reveal a pregnancy-related pathology in pregnant women or women of childbearing age. In a proven pregnancy, menorrhagia may be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy, a spontaneous miscarriage, or a molar pregnancy.
Wearing a copper IUD
Wearing a copper IUD can lengthen the duration of periods, make them heavier and lead to iron deficiency, especially in vegan and vegetarian women. If you have unusual pain or bleeding between periods, you should talk to your doctor.
Symptoms of a coagulation disorder
Of course, not every woman with severe menstrual bleeding should immediately think of a clotting disorder, but if you also regularly suffer from other ailments, such as one or more in the list below, we do recommend that you talk to your doctor about it.
- You suffer from bruising very quickly and often.
- Your gums bleed heavily after a dental procedure.
- You had very severe bleeding after you gave birth.
- You suffer from very frequent nosebleeds.
- You are suffering from an iron deficiency
Since coagulation disorders are often hereditary diseases, it is best to also check whether there are family members with the same symptoms. That could be your mom or an aunt, who, like you, suffers from severe blood loss during their periods, but also a male relative who struggles to heal from bleeding on the nose, gums, or after surgery.
I have some of these symptoms
Do you recognize yourself in what’s written here? Then don’t hesitate and visit your doctor to talk about your complaints. Too many women still do not dare to talk openly about their menstrual problems or do not realize that a solution can often be found, in the form of therapy, a medicine, or an operation that can help them get rid of the symptoms. Let a doctor’s visit be the first step in improving your quality of life.
Betsy is a true science nerd, down to the glasses. Her words, not mine! She works as a nurse specializing in pediatric nursing. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She is passionate about all thing pregnancy and baby-related.