What woman doesn’t have a deep and personal relationship with her period? The flow and routine of our cycles mirror that of the natural world…like the waxing and waning of the moon. Seasons of growth, flowering and vitality, followed by shedding and hibernation.
Our period is such an intimate part of our lives, yet it’s universal in connecting us to other women and to the cycles of birth and death itself…and ultimately to the universe.
For most of us, our period feels natural and routine and part of our natural life rhythms. For some women, however, nature has gone awry and the typical flow can turn into a deluge…causing discomfort, inconvenience and a desire to rectify the problem.
What causes heavy periods?
Menorrhagia is the technical term for excessive bleeding during menstruation. The menstrual cycle varies some from woman to woman and occurs every 21-35 days- typically lasting between 4 and 7 days. Your period may be light or heavy, regular or irregular and you may have cramps or none at all. All that variation is normal. The typical cycle causes a blood loss of about 30-40 ml (2-3 tablespoons). Menorrhagia is diagnosed if the loss is more than 80 ml (1/3 of a cup) of blood during your cycle.
Some signs of excessive bleeding can include:
If your bleeding is heavy enough to interfere with your normal activities, then you should schedule an appointment with your OB/GYN to discuss your options.
Heavy periods typically have two causes. One is hormonal the other is structural. Hormonal causes refer to hormones which cause missed or irregular ovulation. There are two times in life when our periods may get temporarily heavier. One such time is during puberty when menstruation has recently begun, and the body is adjusting to the changes. The second time our periods may get heavier is during our forties, when menstruation is beginning to wind down in preparation for menopause.
Some hormonal causes for ovulation disruption include a sudden increase in exercise, following a strict diet, fluctuations in weight, financial or relationship worries. These are all caused by the effects of stress hormones. Having low thyroid hypothyroidism) can interrupt ovulation as well.
Structural causes for heavy bleeding include intra-uterine growths like polyps or fibroids, which may be pre-cancerous, but are more likely benign. Your OBGYN can perform an ultrasound to determine if such a growth is causing the problem.
For some women, no obvious cause can be found for the heavy bleeding. Hormonal birth control, such as birth control pills are typically used to treat Menorrhagia. For women older than 35, for whom hormonal treatments may not be advisable, a treatment called endometrial ablation may be advised. Endometrial ablation in a simple procedure performed in your OBGYNs office. In this procedure, the lining of the uterus is treated with a heat, or alternatively, a frozen source. This treatment is only appropriate for women who have completed their childbearing years.
As there are numerous causes for heavy periods, there are numerous treatments as well. Sometimes just giving your body the time it needs to regulate itself is all that is needed.
You can schedule an appointment with your OBGYN today, for a checkup and to discuss your treatment options.