What Does It Mean When You Have A Heavy Period?

The amount of menstrual flow can be an indicator whether or not your menstrual period is normal. And in fact, it can vary from woman to woman. While many women experience a moderate heavy flow or light flow, but some can have heavier flow than average. If you have a heavy period, what does it mean? Does it always require medical intervention?

Heavy menstrual period – how common is it?

It is medically called as menorrhagia. The word ‘heavy’ is a subjective for bleeding of menstrual flow. And as the name implies, it is a condition for menstruation in which bleeding (menstrual flow) is abnormally heavy (heavier than usual) or prolonged.

In general, it tends to affect women in the menopause transition (the phase between reproductive age and non-reproductive age (menopause)). Furthermore, it is also common in girls in the phase of puberty where the hormonal fluctuations occur [1].

In other words, being an adolescent (in the phase of puberty) and approaching menopause (premenopausal phase) are risk factors of having heavy menstrual bleeding [2].

But though this problem is a common issue among women with menopause transition, fortunately most women don’t experience bleeding severe enough to be categorized as menorrhagia.

However, menorrhagia is one of common problems reported by women to their doctors. According to CDC (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), about 1 out of 5 women experience it [3].

What is considered heavy menstrual flow?

If you in doubt with your condition, see a doctor or a health professional! The symptoms of this problem may vary from woman to woman.

image_illustration86But in general, when you have heavy period, you will experience some of the following conditions /symptoms [4]:

  1. The tampon or sanitary pad gets soaked per hour. Normally, a tampon can accommodate the menstrual flow for several hours, but if it only works for an hour or even less than an hour, this should be not ignored – particularly if this occurs for several consecutive hours.
  2. The point ‘1’ may make your frustrated, and then you may choose to use double sanitary pad.
  3. You need to wake up from your sleep at night to change the sanitary pad /tampon.
  4. The menstrual flow of your menstruation lasts longer than usual such as a week or longer. If you experience prolonged excessive bleeding, see a doctor promptly to keep safe!
  5. Excessive menstrual flow may also be accompanied or followed with some blood clots.

Sometime the excessive bleeding of menorrhagia can be very bothersome and this then may affect your daily activities. As a result, the problem may also cause restricting daily activities.

Since excessive bleeding means that you can lose lots of blood, this will also probably cause anemia. In other words, the signs of anemia may also be found in women with menorrhagia. These signs can include shortness of breath, tiredness, and fatigue.

Normally, most women can lose the blood about 30-40 milliliters in each cycle of menstruation on average. Losing about 60 to 80 milliliters or greater of blood in each period is considered as heavy bleeding [5].

So, if you experience heavy period – what does it mean?

Unfortunately, some cases of this problem come with unknown reason. Many times, doctors and healthcare professionals cannot identify the clearly cause of the problem.

However, there are some underlying conditions associated with menorrhagia. The following are some of them!

The imbalance of hormones

The hormonal balance plays a key role in regulating the female menstrual menstruation. In fact, it is the major cause behind irregularities of menstrual period in girls with puberty and women with menstrual transition.

Hormonal imbalance is one of the most common causes of menorrhagia. Another common cause is uterine fibroids.

When the balance of estrogen and progesterone is affected, this can affect the mechanism for the buildup of the uterus lining (endometrium). As a result, the endometrium can grow too over which then will cause heavier menstrual flow.

Benign abnormal tumor (noncancerous) that form around /in the uterus

This health condition is medically called as uterine fibroids. Unfortunately many women with it don’t realize that they have it since many times it doesn’t cause any symptoms.

If the symptoms do occur, they may include [6]:

  1. Pain during and /or after intercourse.
  2. Digestive problem, particularly such as constipation.
  3. Frequent urination.
  4. Back pain (particularly lower back pain) and /or stomach pain.
  5. Heavy menstrual flow, it may also be followed with pain (painful period).

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

It is one of common health problems that affect women at reproductive age. Unfortunately, the exact cause of this problem is not revealed yet.

However in general, the diagnosis of PCOS is based on at least two of the following conditions [7]:

  1. If the level of hormone called androgen (male hormone) is higher than normal.
  2. If there are cysts that form in the ovaries – this is medically called as polycystic ovaries.
  3. Or if the ovaries fail to release the eggs, this means there is no ovulation.

PCOS should not be ignored. Experts believe that having PCOS is associated with the raised risk of hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) and type-2 diabetes.

The signs of PCOS can start soon after a girl /woman get their first menstruation. However, they also can start later during childbearing age. For instance, they may flare up when a woman with PCOS experience a significant weight gain [8].

The symptoms of PCOS include [7]:

  1. No periods, irregular periods, or prolonged menstrual periods.
  2. Irregular periods mean that there will be irregular ovulation. This can significantly affect the chance of a woman to get pregnant. Even some women with PCOS often have failure cycles of ovulation.
  3. Gaining more pounds of excessive weight.

Sometime acne flare-ups, oily skin, and excessive hair growth on the unexpected sites such as on the buttocks, back, fact, or chest also can be a sign of PCOS.