Heavy menstrual periods are a common problem for women their 30s and 40s. Up to one in five women in their 40s have abnormally heavy periods. This problem can have significant social and psychological consequences, since most women with heavy periods report occasionally missing work or social events as a result of their heavy flow. If you are struggling to manage your heavy periods, the specialists at The Woman’s Health Pavilion encourage you to come in for a consultation. Our experienced Queens and Long Island team will provide support, an accurate diagnosis, and effective treatment options to help renew your quality of life.
Women sometimes tell us that they have to go to school or work with a bag full of sanitary products during their periods. They sometimes have to use two (or more) pads with their periods, and they still have embarrassing accidents, with clots and flooding. One of our patients—a high-school teacher—told us how her class started laughing when she turned to write on the blackboard—because she had stained her dress. Heavy periods can be a terrible burden to carry.
How heavy is “abnormally heavy”?
“Menorrhagia” is the medical term for heavy periods. Periods are defined as “heavy” if the total flow—from beginning to end—exceeds 80 mL; this is about six tablespoons, or 1/3 of a cup. Many women with periods much heavier than this are actually surprised to hear that that their flow is abnormal: They’ve lived with heavy periods for so long that they have come to regard their flow as “normal.”
Honestly, medical definitions of “heavy flow” are not terribly useful; after all, who measures their flow anyway? What is important is how your period affects your life. Here are some signs your periods are abnormally heavy:
- Soaking through pads/tampons quickly
- Changing pads/tampons more often than every two hours
- Having embarrassing “accidents”
- Carrying lots of feminine hygiene products
- “Doubling up” with two pads, or a pad and a tampon
- Avoiding social events because of your heavy period
- Missing work because of your heavy period
- Developing anemia or fatigue during or after your period
Health Risks Associated With Heavy Periods
Heavy periods can affect more than your lifestyle, they can impact your physical and emotional health. Heavy periods may be associated with:
- Anemia caused by iron deficiency due to the excessive blood loss. Symptoms include feeling lightheaded, short of breath, fatigued, and generally lousy. Women may have to take iron therapy indefinitely to control their anemia, but anemia related to heavy periods is permanently cured by eliminating the heavy periods.
- Premenstrual depression and anxiety are not always true “PMS.” Women with very heavy periods may suffer with monthly apprehension as their period approaches.
- Pain including cramping, lower back pain, and abdominal pain related to heavy periods can be unbearable, and make it impossible for you to go about your normal routine.
Heavy periods are NOT normal.
If you have heavy periods, you should be evaluated by a gynecologist.
Possible Causes of Heavy Periods
Heavy periods can almost always be treated effectively. Conditions commonly related to heavy periods include:
- Uterine fibroids
- Hormone imbalances like polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Cancer of the uterus or cervix
Treatments for Heavy Periods
No woman has to live with the physical and emotional burden of heavy periods. A variety of safe and effective treatment options are available that can reduce menstrual flow and significantly improve quality of life. Recommended options vary with the the reason for your heavy periods, but may include one or more of the following:
- Birth control pills can control hormones to make periods lighter, or even stop them altogether.
- Prescription medication (Lysteda®) can help reduce flow without hormones.
- Certain IUDs can control heavy periods by releasing a small amount of hormone which keeps the inner lining thin.
- Myomectomy removes uterine fibroids that cause heavy periods.
- Endometrial ablation permanently inactivates the lining of the uterus (endometrium).
- Polyps can be easily removed during a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure.
- Hysterectomy removes the uterus. Your period stops after hysterectomy, but removal of the uterus does NOT cause menopause.
The Woman’s Health Pavilion specializes in minimally invasive surgical techniques for myomectomy, hysterectomy, and other gynecologic procedures. Minimally invasive procedures allow for a faster recovery with less scarring than traditional approaches.
We Can Help
Whether your period is profoundly heavy or just heavy enough to be a nuisance, we invite you to request an appointment to see us in consultation. Our specially trained OB-GYNs and support staff have the expertise to identify any underlying problems, and to offer you a range of effective treatment options. The Woman’s Health Pavilion serves patients 7 days a week at multiple locations in Queens and Long Island, and offers same-day appointments for urgent conditions.
May We Help You?
Would you like to find out more about our treatments and services? Are you looking for a second opinion on a diagnosis or treatment recommendation you received at another practice? The experienced team at The Woman’s Health Pavilion is happy to help. Just let us know how and when you’d like to hear from us.