Every woman’s period is different. What seems normal for one woman may be out of the ordinary for another. While some women have light periods that cause no reason for concern, others may have heavier periods that not only interfere with their daily activities but might also signal an underlying problem.
What’s normal for you depends on your body. How do you tell the difference between normal menstrual flow and a period that is too heavy? Read on to find out.
What is “normal” anyway?
What constitutes a “normal” period varies from woman to woman. However, the typical period lasts from 2-7 days and the average menstrual cycle, which starts on the first day of your period, is anywhere from 21-35 days. Cycles tend to shorten as you age.
Most women experience a regular cycle that occurs at the same time each month and a light, moderate, or heavy flow that falls within the broad “normal” range. Flow tends to vary during the 2-7 days of your period, with the first day or two being heavier. Many women experience a lighter flow toward the end of their period.
Is there such a thing as “too much”?
Even though there is a broad range of what is considered to be normal, there is such a thing as too much menstrual flow. The medical term for heavy or prolonged periods is menorrhagia.
The average woman loses about 30-40 milliliters of menstrual fluid during her period. That’s about 2-4 tablespoons.
While there’s debate about what amount of blood loss is classified as heavy, most experts consider your period to be heavy if you lose more than 60 milliliters of fluid per cycle.
Because it’s difficult to measure your flow, here are some good indicators to tell whether your menstrual flow is too heavy:
- Needing to change your tampon or sanitary napkin every two or three hours
- Bleeding for more than seven days
- Passing very large blood clots
- Soaking through pads and tampons through the night
Health conditions that cause heavy periods
While heavy menstrual flow usually isn’t serious, it can sometimes signal underlying health problems. The following conditions can cause heavy periods:
- Fibroids: noncancerous tumors that develop in the uterus
- Endometrial polyps: noncancerous growth of cells that line the uterus
- Infection: pelvic inflammatory disease commonly causes heavy menstrual flow
- Uterine Cancer: more common in women age 55 and over
Keep in mind that perfectly innocent things can cause heavy bleeding, such as stress or changes in diet.
Dr. John Macey routinely diagnoses and treats heavy periods. When you come in for an evaluation, Dr. Macey first determines whether you are indeed experiencing a heavy menstrual flow.
If you’re diagnosed with heavy bleeding, Dr. Macey may run some tests to help determine the cause so that he can create an effective treatment plan. Sometimes, women experience heavy periods without an immediately apparent cause.
Treatment options depend on your unique situation. Surgical treatment is available for heavy periods caused by fibroids. Oral birth control is another option that reduces menstrual flow and brings relief to women experiencing heavy periods. Dr. Macey discusses all of your treatment options with you.
Don’t let heavy periods interfere with your life. For effective management, call or use our convenient online booking form to schedule a consultation.