Every woman remembers her first period. It’s a key event in life and a turning point. But unlike most dramatic, life-changing events, this isn’t a one-off moment: it’s a starting point. For most women, a period is a regular event, happening about once a month, signifying her hormonal cycle.
But while periods are, in theory, regular, we all know that they can be interrupted and altered. They aren’t always consistent. Some months might feel lighter, with fewer cramps and other symptoms, and some months might feel heavier. There are times, however, when you may start regularly suffering from heavy periods, of longer duration and/or heavier bleeding. This can be uncomfortable, painful, socially isolating, and potentially with a long-term health impact. The medical term for this is “menorrhagia”. But most people just say “heavy periods”.
Heavy periods don’t have to be a regular occurrence. There are short-term fixes and long-term solutions. For many women, hormone treatment for heavy periods is the best way to have lighter and safer hormonal cycles. It’s a way to make that part of life far more regular, comfortable, and manageable.
What Is a Heavy Period?
Every woman sometimes has periods that are heavier than other times. Medically speaking, however, the term “heavy periods” refers to those that are consistently longer-lasting and generally include heavier bleeding. Some of the primary signs of a diagnosable heavy period include:
- Periods that consistently last up to or longer than 7 days
- Menstrual flow that soaks through one or more pads or tampons an hour (for several hours in a row)
- Menstrual flow with blood clots larger than a quarter
- Having to change pads or tampons overnight
- Needing to double up on pads or tampons
- Pain and irritation in the stomach above and beyond normal cramping
Of course, any of these things can happen once in a while, or be one-offs. It is when they happen regularly that you may have menorrhagia. And that is something important to take care of.
The Dangers of Heavy Periods
While some assume that heavy periods are just a fact of life or try to minimize their impact, the pain, discomfort, and inconvenience they bring are very real. Periods impact your life every month, and menorrhagia can make it a highly disruptive experience.
The first most obvious danger of heavy bleeding is pain. Heavier bleeding means that cramps can be longer-lasting and more intense. These can be severe enough to require treatment following medical evaluation. This kind of pain can clearly be debilitating, harming your work life and your social life. This is conjoined with having to deal with bleeding heavily, often for extended periods of time. Having to change your pad, tampon, or menstrual cup every hour can also be challenging in professional or personal situations. It can alter the way you live your life and potentially prevent you from living it the way you want.
In addition to these very real problems, that kind of blood loss can lead to anemia, which can cause you to feel weak, tired, and distracted. It hampers your ability to concentrate and can deeply impact your mood. Long-term anemia can be damaging to all your organs.
There are undoubtedly significant consequences that come from heavy periods. So what can be done about them? A potential answer to that can be found in understanding their root causes.
What Causes Heavy Periods?
The answer to this question is that there is no easy answer. According to the CDC, doctors are unable to find a diagnosis in nearly half of all women with heavy periods. But there are some potential triggers, including:
- Non-cancerous growths or tumors in the uterus, including uterine fibroids
- Uterine or cervical cancer
- Miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy
- Bleeding disorders, including Von Willebrand Disease
- Organ disorders, including cancer, in the thyroid, kidney, and liver
In other words, heavy periods can be a sign of broader illnesses, which is why if you are suffering from them it is vital to go to a doctor. However, heavy periods can also be caused by hormonal imbalances and fluctuations—and there are treatments.
Hormone Treatment for Heavy Periods
In a normal menstrual cycle, progesterone and estrogen fluctuate in specific proportions to drive reproductive processes, including regulating the build-up of the endometrium—the lining of the uterus. This shedding of this lining is the cause of menstrual bleeding.
However, when estrogen and progesterone are out of balance, such as in cases of estrogen deficiency, the build-up of your uterine lining can become extremely thick. In some cases, this imbalance can also cause irregular periods. But thanks to advances in medical science, there are treatments to help your heavy periods. Some of these treatments include medications and supplements to alleviate pain or provide supplemental iron. Certain intrauterine devices and birth control pills can also help regulate your periods, treat heavy bleeding, and in some cases even eliminate menstruation.
These treatment options can be excellent choices for some people. But they aren’t appropriate for all women and may not provide adequate relief. There are also many women who don’t want to take birth control pills for a number of reasons, including lifestyle choices, or because they have adverse reactions to the specific hormones.
For women with hormonal imbalances, a better solution may be hormone replacement therapy (HRT). By supplementing your body’s natural hormone levels, you can balance your hormones reliably, without intense highs or lows. HRT is also frequently used to treat symptoms of perimenopause, one of which is heavy bleeding. If you are suffering from a heavy period and other signs and symptoms of perimenopause, HRT might be a way to alleviate multiple issues with the same treatment.
HRT treatment comes after a comprehensive diagnosis and analysis process. Your blood and, sometimes, saliva and urine are tested, and your medical and family history is analyzed. With a comprehensive picture of your symptoms and overall health, your practitioner can create a unique hormonal formulation that mimics your estrogen and/or progesterone to regain balance. They may also recommend specialized supplements and lifestyle changes to further improve symptoms.
Your periods are highly personal. The pain you feel is yours. The impact of heavy periods is real. And your treatment should be as unique as you are so you can get back to feeling like yourself. Period.
If you are struggling with a heavy period, BodyLogicMD can help. The BodyLogicMD network is comprised of top medical professionals specializing in hormone health and hormone replacement therapy. A BodyLogicMD-affiliated practitioner will design a personalized treatment plan to address your symptoms and help you achieve your health goals using the best therapies available today. Contact a local practitioner to schedule your first appointment, or take the BodyLogicMD Hormone Balance Quiz today.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All content on this website is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases.
Charlotte is a patient care coordinator specializing in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. She is committed to helping patients who struggle with the symptoms of hormonal change and imbalance explore their treatment options and develop effective strategies to optimize wellness.