Some menstrual periods are very light; others are too heavy. In fact, there’s no universal level of menstrual bleeding that’s “just right.” Menstrual periods vary for each woman, so it may be difficult to decipher what’s normal and what’s abnormal bleeding.
However, if you experience a heavy period, requiring a new sanitary pad every couple of hours, or if your menstrual cycle lasts longer than seven days — or both — you may be dealing with menorrhagia, otherwise known as heavy menstrual bleeding.
What is the normal menstrual flow?
The usual amount of blood loss per period is 10 to 35 ml. Each soaked normal-sized tampon or pad holds a teaspoon (5ml) of blood. That means it is normal to soak one to seven normal-sized pads or tampons (“sanitary products”) in a whole period.
The Signs of Menorrhagia
These are the signs and symptoms of a heavy period:
•Your period lasts more than seven days.
•You go through more than six or seven tampons or pads a day.
•You are losing so much blood that you become anemic. (Anemia is a condition that occurs when your blood does not have enough iron, making you tired.)
•You get painful menstrual cramps. Heavy bleeding can cause the uterus to contract, which causes cramps.
•You get menstrual blood clots. Although, clots smaller than the size of a quarter are normal.
Women can experience heavy menstrual bleeding at any age, but it may occur more often as you near menopause and begin to skip periods — so when you do bleed, the flow may be heavier than normal.
The most common causes of menorrhagia or heavy menstrual bleeding:
1. A hormonal imbalance during adolescence or menopause
2. Uterine fibroid tumors
3. Cervical polyps
4. Endometrial polyps
5. Miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy
6. Pelvic inflammatory disease
7. Uterine, ovarian and cervical cancer
How much is heavy bleeding?
It is difficult to define exactly what a heavy period is because the amount of blood lost during a period can vary considerably between women.
The average amount of blood lost during a period is 30-40 millilitres (ml), with 9 out of 10 women losing less than 80ml. Heavy menstrual bleeding is considered to be 60-80ml or more in each cycle.
Treatments for Heavy Periods
If you are having heavy menstrual bleeding, it is important to see your doctor to determine the cause. Treatment will depend on what’s causing the bleeding.
Medication treatment for menorrhagia may include one or more of the following:
•Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen to reduce the amount of blood loss and help with pain
•Hormone therapy to stabilize the endometrium (lining of the uterus), regulate menstrual cycles, or correct hormonal imbalances
•Hormone secreting IUD (Mirena)
•Lysteda (tranexamic acid), a non-hormonal medication that promotes blood clotting