Menstrual periods vary from person to person. While one woman’s period can be light and short, others can experience a heavy menstrual cycle full of cramps, back pain, and emotional turmoil. Most of these are not a cause for alarm; however, you might wonder if an extremely heavy flow is. Sometimes, the answer is yes.
While not all heavy flows are a symptom of an underlying health condition, there are certain signs that you should not ignore.
Common Causes Of A Heavy Menstrual Period
Women are all made differently, and periods can change from month to month. Diet, genetics, sexual habits, birth control methods, and many other factors can change the flow of your period. However, there are a few common causes of heavy uterine bleeding that are not related to your daily life and may need medical intervention. A few possible causes are:
- Hormone imbalance, such as PCOS
- Pregnancy complications, such as miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy
- Endometriosis and adenomyosis
- Genetic bleeding disorders
- Ovarian dysfunction
- Fibroids or polyps in the uterus
- Intrauterine devices
- Uterine or cervical cancer
Menorrhagia is the medical term for abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding. Medical professionals define abnormal bleeding as any amount of period blood over 80 milliliters – typically about 16 tampons. Symptoms of menorrhagia include:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding for longer than one week
- Menstrual clotting with clots larger than a quarter
- Anemia symptoms, including fatigue and shortness of breath
Usually, women with menorrhagia have to change their menstrual pads or tampons multiple times a day because the blood soaks through the products so quickly. Some women have to double up on their pads to ensure no blood seeps through them. Others might need to wake up during the night to change their pad or tampon. Their periods may even restrict their daily activities because of their heavy flow.
How To Treat An Abnormally Heavy Flow
Treatment for menorrhagia is based on a number of factors, including your lifestyle, your plans to bear children, your reaction to medications, and your overall health. Doctors treat menorrhagia through medications, surgery, and other procedures.
When you visit a doctor for menorrhagia, they will ask you about your menstrual cycles, medical history, and family background. They may also take a blood sample, an ultrasound, a Pap smear, or a biopsy to determine the cause of the heavy flow.
After your initial intake, the doctor can recommend a number of treatments:
- Medications such as ibuprofen to relieve pain, oral contraceptives to regulate your cycle, and tranexamic acid to relieve bleeding
- A hormonal IUD to reduce your uterine lining
- Progesterone to fix a hormonal imbalance
- Various surgical procedures
Risks Of Heavy Uterine Bleeding
There are certain symptoms associated with heavy uterine bleeding that you should never ignore. These symptoms can develop into potentially dangerous conditions.
You should seek medical attention for menorrhagia and heavy uterine bleeding if:
- You experience any vaginal bleeding after menopause
- You soak through at least one pad or tampon per hour
- You bleed between periods
- You experience any other form of irregular vaginal bleeding
Prolonged menstrual bleeding can lead to the development of anemia. When you bleed such a heavy amount, you’re losing vital red blood cells. When you lose these cells, your body uses up iron to make hemoglobin, a protein that helps blood cells carry oxygen through your body. However, this decreases your iron levels, increasing your risk of developing anemia.
Symptoms of anemia include:
- Pale skin
- Shortness of breath
- Unusually rapid heart rate
The symptoms of anemia alone are enough to cause difficulty in your daily life. Anemia can also lead to severe organ damage because the condition reduces the amount of oxygen that your body receives. Heart damage is especially common, since your heart will need to work harder to make up for your low red blood cell count. Pregnant women with anemia are at risk of premature birth, miscarriage, and low birth weight.
Surgery For Heavy Uterine Bleeding
If heavy menstruation is affecting your daily life, talk to your doctor. Menorrhagia surgery may be a way to transform this difficulty. Doctors may consider surgery depending on a few factors, including the severity of your condition. If you have a fear of surgical procedures, consider visiting Arizona Gynecology Consultants to find an alternative, noninvasive treatment for your condition.
Common menorrhagia surgeries include:
- Focused ultrasound surgery, which treats bleeding from fibroids
- Hysterectomy, which removes the uterus and cervix
- Myomectomy, which removes fibroids
- Uterine artery embolization, which shrinks fibroids by cutting off blood supply
- Dilation and curettage, endometrial resection, and endometrial ablation, which all remove the uterine lining
Call Arizona Gynecology Consultants For Advice
Contact Arizona Gynecology Consultants today to discuss whether your heavy menstrual flow is a cause for concern. Our compassionate staff can schedule an appointment and offer advice on the best way to negotiate uterine bleeding until you see a physician.
Founder and Medical Director of ARIZONA GYNECOLOGY CONSULTANTS
Dr. Kelly Roy is a specialist in surgical gynecology and advanced laparoscopy (and hysteroscopy). She is a long-time resident of Arizona and obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering at Arizona State University before finishing her Doctorate of Medicine at the University of Arizona in 1997.
Dr. Roy completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the then “Banner Good Samaritan Hospital” (now Banner University Medical Center), in Phoenix Arizona in 2001.
Well known for her teaching and surgical ability, she is on the faculty at the residency program at both Banner University Medical Center and Saint Joseph’s Hospital in central Phoenix and is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix Campus. Dr. Roy has taught advanced surgical techniques to medical students, residents, fellows and colleagues for over 15 years.
Dr. Roy is also a consultant to the medical device industry and has participated in the design and clinical testing of many instruments and surgical devices available on the world-wide market today.