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The Truth About Heavy Periods

Firstly, let's establish what constitutes heavy periods. A heavy period is one where you bleed more than 80mL of blood during your period and/or if you have a period that lasts longer than 7 days. To put it simply, if your period extends beyond 7 days or if you find yourself changing your pad or tampon every 2 hours due to excessive blood flow or leakage, that qualifies as abnormally heavy. 

spilt wine

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch

Potential causes of heavy periods

If you have now read the above and are thinking that this might be you, let's talk about it. Numerous factors can contribute to heavy periods. These may include the presence of fibroids in the uterus, which are more prevalent among black women, or the occurrence of uterine polyps. Additionally, hormone imbalances like endometriosis and PCOS can play a role.

Furthermore, factors unrelated to gynecology, such as uncontrolled thyroid conditions, being on blood thinners, or underlying bleeding disorders, can lead to heavy periods. These are only a few of the many causes that exist, but I believe it is helpful to understand that there are multiple causes and that sometimes your doctor can check everything and not find a direct cause. According to the CDC, approximately half of those experiencing heavy menstrual bleeding have no known underlying cause.

Concerns and risks

The primary concern about heavy periods is that, if you are bleeding so heavily and for so long, you can become very anemic. Severe anemia can result in hospitalization due to symptoms like extreme fatigue, frequent heart palpitations, chest pain, and even heart attacks. So, it is crucial that you always discuss with your doctor who can help you find ways to manage it.  

Treatment Options

The choice of treatment depends on what your diagnosis is, what your long-term goals are and what you are comfortable with. I know birth controls have a certain stigma on them these days, but even with an unknown cause of heavy bleeding, they are helpful because they can slow down or stop periods. That way, you avoid some of the severe side effects that I mentioned above caused by heavy periods.

Other options include iron infusions to help combat anemia, medications like tranexamic acid to aid blood clotting and reduce excessive bleeding, and the use of ibuprofen to decrease bleeding, particularly if not too heavy. 

Surgical options include a curettage that scrapes to thin the uterine lining, endometrial ablation that burns the uterine lining, or a complete hysterectomy to remove the uterus. 

Seeking medical guidance

There is no one size fits all and it's important to discuss management with your doctor to pick the right treatment for you. But the most important thing I want everyone to know is that if you have a heavy period, lasting longer than 7 days or changing a pad or tampon every 1-2 hours – this is not normal, can have long term effects on your health, and I urge you to speak with your gynecologist about it. 

DISCLAIMER: Features published by Adaaba are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.

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