Heavy Periods are No Lighthearted Matter

Heavy Periods are No Lighthearted Matter
While TV commercials make menstruation seem like a breeze, with women making the most of everything—from water sports to ballroom dancing—you’re probably not eagerly awaiting your next cycle. This may be especially true if you experience 
menorrhagia (heavy periods). 

Menorrhagia affects more than 10 million American women every year. If you’re one of them, your period is, well, no picnic. You may be suffering from complications like heavy blood loss, severe pain and even anemia. 

The good news is, you don’t have to stoically smile in silence or wear your best black sweatpants all week. Relief is more than possible, and the first step is a visit with your health care provider. 

Before your appointment, here are answers to some common questions about this disruptive but treatable condition: 

What is menorrhagia?

Menorrhagia is heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding. Women who have menorrhagia may have to change pads or tampons frequently (at least once every hour for an entire day or longer); change their pads in the middle of the night; and/or wear two pads at a time for absorption. They might also skip doing the things they love due to painful cramping, passing of large blood clots, periods lasting longer than seven days, feeling tired or short of breath, or bleeding between periods. 

What causes menorrhagia?

Causes for menorrhagia include: 

  • Hormone imbalances
  • Ovary dysfunction
  • Uterine fibroids (benign or noncancerous tumors of the uterus)
  • Adenomyosis (when glands from endometrium become embedded in the uterine muscle)
  • Using a non-hormonal intrauterine device (IUD)
  • Uterine cancer
  • Inherited bleeding disorders
  • Medications (anti-inflammatory drugs, certain hormonal medications and blood thinners)
  • Other medical conditions, such as thyroid problems, endometriosis, or liver or kidney disease 

When should you seek medical care?

First and foremost, if you dread the approach of your next period, or are in pain or feel sidelined from your life. Talk to your doctor if you have to change your pad or tampon every one to two hours, you bleed longer than seven days, you have spotting or bleeding between periods, or you are bleeding post-menopause. Your caregiver will ask you about your medical history and menstrual cycles, perform a pelvic exam, and recommend additional diagnostic testing as needed. 

What treatments are available?

There are several effective treatments for menorrhagia. Your treatment will depend on your overall health and age, as well as your personal preferences. Options include:
  • Birth control pills or an IUD (with hormones
  • Certain medications to reduce blood flow
  • Surgery to remove fibroids or polyps (small growths that are usually benign)
  • Removing the lining of the uterus through procedures such as dilation and curettage (D&C), or endometrial ablation and endometrial resection
  • Hysterectomy
Remember, you have power when it comes to your periods. So take action by seeking support from your gynecologist or other health care provider. We’re here to help you live the full and active life you deserve. 


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