Heavy flows, cramps and pain can all be common experiences for people with periods and each person's menstrual flow and cycle are different. If your period is so heavy that it is stopping you from doing your normal daily activities, you might want to look into this a little bit further. We've put together this handy little guide to help you understand why you might have a heavy period and some things that you can do about this.
People that have periods lose an average of 30 to 40 mL of blood during a period, and a heavy flow is usually defined as losing up to 80mL. If you experience abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding, you may have a condition called menorrhagia.
What is menorrhagia?
Menorrhagia is the medical term for unusually long menstrual, or heavy periods. This condition causes flows so heavy you need to change your pad or tampon every hour, and some people have reported using more than six or seven tampons a day. Because so much blood is lost, menorrhagia can cause anaemia and severe cramps. You may also pass very large blood clots during your period.
Lots of people have days where their flow is heavier than normal and they may also have bad cramps during menstruation. The difference with menorrhagia is it is not an average amount of bleeding and the heavy periods happen each cycle, rather than every now and then.
As heavy bleeding means changing pads, tampons or menstrual cups more often, it can be a great time to switch to more absorbent protection like our reusable period underwear, which soak up the blood and absorb much more than disposable pads and tampons and can be worn for a longer amount of time. However, it's worth bearing in mind that if you have a very heavy flow, you might still have to change your period pants more often than the recommended time.
What causes menorrhagia?
Heavy periods can in rare cases be caused by serious health problems but more often than not they are caused by subtle health problems that may not even be known to the individual, or they may just be part of a persons menstrual pattern. Too much loss of blood can lead to physical health problems and does little for the mental well-being so it is always worth being on the safe side and seeking medical advice if you have any concerns.
1. If your period is suddenly very heavy one month:
This could be caused by an ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, a newly implanted contraceptive device, or mediations like blood thinners.
2. If your period is heavy on the first day:
This could be due to birth control changes or medication changes
3. If you have a recurring period that is heavy and painful:
This could signal a hormone problem, bleeding disorder, uterine fibroids, perimenopause, endometriosis or childbirth recovery.
We'd recommend talking to your GP if you find you are leaking through our super absorbent range of period pants within less than the half the stated hours of protection they are designed to hold. For pad and tampon users, it would be a cause for concern if you are having to change a high absorbency tampon or pad more than every other hour throughout your cycle.
If you have any concerns about having a heavy menstrual flow or feel like this is not normal for you, you should always seek medical advice and get help managing your menstrual cycle.
For some people they may have always had a heavy flow from the first time their period starts. For others, this may start after having had very normal or even light periods for a number of years. This tends to be especially common in people that have had children.
It’s important If you are experiencing heavy periods to speak with your doctor, especially if the problem is new to you.
Here's six signs that you may be suffering with periods that are heavy:
1. Frequently changing pads or tampons throughout the day or in the middle of the night.
2. Wearing multiple types of protection at a time, for example, a tampon or menstrual cup alongside super-heavy absorbency period pants.
3. Having to stop doing daily activities because of painful cramps.
4. Frequently passing blood clots that are are large and/or clumped together. In some cases these large clots have been reported to cause tampons to come out (as happens when some tampon users have a bowel movement)!
5. Heavy periods that last longer than seven days
6. Symptoms of anaemia, such as tiredness, fatigue or short breath
Help for heavy periods
All of the listed symptoms are above and beyond what you would like to be dealing with, on top of the routine monthly hormonal issues that come hand in hand for a lot of people on their periods.
You don’t need to suffer, and certainly not in silence. There ARE solutions and lots of help available!
Some great natural remedies that can help improve pain and cramps include resting with a hot water bottle, running a nice warm bath, or a relaxing massage to help soothe the aches. You can also try drinking warm herbal teas like chamomile or gently rubbing essential oils like peppermint onto the affected cramping areas.
Switching from internal period protection like tampons or menstrual cups can also be a great idea to help reduce pain and some people even say that their period flow is lighter when they wear period pants!
Being active on your period can help with the pain and discomfort by increasing circulation and also boosting your mood by releasing endorphins to make you happy.
Gentle exercises like yoga, swimming and walking are great remedies for reducing the pain that too often comes along with a heavy flow.
Reduce your stress
Having some 'me time' is really important when you're suffering with period pain. You can try reducing your stress levels by taking some time out for yourself to relax at home, reading a good book, and reducing your screen time.
It's also important to listen to your body when you're not feeling too good. Don't feel obliged to keep up appearances and say no to any activities or plans that you don't feel quite up to.
Improve your diet
One of the most common side effects of losing so much blood is becoming anaemic, and so one of the easiest and most natural options to help reduce this is to add more iron to your diet. Foods that are rich in iron include dried fruits, green leafy vegetables, beans and pulses.
Food and supplements rich in vitamin C have also been reported to help boost the immune system. This vitamin can help your body absorb iron. Some foods that are high in vitamin C include brussel sprouts and citrus fruit.
Getting good quality sleep is essential on your period. Settling in to a 'bedtime routine' and winding down an hour or two before you are trying to sleep can be a great way to improve your sleep quality. Increasing your water intake and listening to calming meditation are also other great ways to stop your sleep from being disturbed. Read our 5 proven ways to get better sleep on your period here.
Lastly, let's end on a positive note:
Please remember periods are not for life - and some people we speak with who are post menopausal even say they miss having their periods! So enjoy them while they last and try to reduce the negative side effects by using any of the tips above, but always remember, speak to your GP if in doubt!