Heavy periods: How heavy is too heavy?
Identifying whether your period is heavy or not is something many people struggle with. To understand how heavy your flow is, let's first go through the basics. Check the signs!
The need for double protection, for example, using double "regular" sized pads or a tampon and a pad at the same time;
The need to wake up in the middle of the night to change protection;
The need to change a "regular-sized" pad or tampon more than every second hour;
Developing anemia could be a sign too!
What is considered normal?
Up to 80 ml of blood (the amount to fill a plastic water cup) is considered normal for each menstrual period, meaning: for your total days of bleeding. Most women bleed more during the first days and then the flow tends to decrease as the days go by. Using regular-sized protection and changing it every 4-6 hours is an indicator of having a regular flow.
What is considered heavy?
A heavy flow tends to always require a lot of attention. Due to over-soaked protection, it makes it indispensable to rush to the toilet every other hour to change it, or make you wake up during the night with a blood-flooded bed. Additionally, it might give you physical symptoms, such tiredness, dizziness, weakness, pale skin, and a general feeling of lack of energy - which are also common symptoms of anemia.
When to be concerned or seek medical attention?
Having a heavy flow every month for a couple of years straight, can lead to these symptoms described above, which could turn into a serious health problem such as anemia.
It is important to seek medical attention, as early as possible, if you're having a heavy flow and have been experiencing these symptoms for several months. The doctor will easily check your blood and iron levels to find out if you need supplements to mediate the iron deficiency.
You could also strengthen your diet by adding foods containing iron, like red meat, eggs, whole grain products, peas, beans, vegetables. Preferably, in combination to fruits containing vitamin C, as it supports the absorption of iron. (For example, pumpkin seeds and strawberries contain lots of iron! Strawberries include both iron and vitamin C.) That should also help boost your iron levels.
What could be the reasons for a heavy flow?
It’s common and normal to experience heavy period flow after pregnancy or childbirth, or in the beginning of menopause. Some birth control methods can increase the blood volume, and in that case, it might be good to consult a doctor to change contraceptives. Alternatively, women can also experience high levels of estrogen and low levels of progesterone throughout different phases of their lifetime. In some cases, this could be a sign of hormonal imbalance, that causes the uterine lining to thicken, and when expelled, the flow tends to be heavier and contain larger blood clots.
Some women have heavy flow due to fibroids. Fibroids are small, non-cancerous growths inside the uterus which can be treated with either hormonal contraceptives or even surgery in serious cases. However, this is something that needs to be diagnosed by a doctor. Lastly, and most importantly, if your heavy flow is accompanied by severe pain, you should look into it immediately, as it could be a sign of endometriosis.
In most cases, heavy flows are nothing to worry about. Except for being an inconvenience, it can be managed with a few tweaks in your habits. Generally, the easiest way to stop the heavy flow is using a hormonal contraceptive that either decreases or stops the bleeding. For example, a hormonal IUD or implant reduces bleeding for most women and some even stop bleeding entirely. In summary, a heavy flow is one that interferes with your daily activities it is characterized by the constant change of your protection method every other 2 hours, be it during the day or at night. Due to the fact that a heavy flow can lead to anemia, it is advisable to seek medical attention once you develop anemic symptoms. The easiest way to stop heavy bleeding would be the use of a hormonal contraceptive. A more natural way to prevent heavy bleeding is to consume food that is rich in Iron.
Stay informed, stay in control. Do you have a heavy or light period? Share with us in the comments!