Menorrhagia is the medical term for menstrual periods with abnormally heavy or prolonged bleeding. With menorrhagia, you can’t maintain your usual activities when you have your period because you have so much blood loss and cramping.
Although heavy menstrual bleeding is a common concern, most women don’t experience blood loss severe enough to be defined as menorrhagia. Untreated heavy or prolonged bleeding can stop you from living your life to the fullest. It also can cause anemia. Anemia is a common blood problem that can leave you feeling tired or weak.
Although methods of quantifying the exact amount of blood loss are not usually accurate, most women know when their period is heavy. If a woman loses more than 80ml of blood in one period, the bleeding is heavy. Heavy periods usually often come with blood clots.
How do you know if you have heavy bleeding? If you need to change your tampon or pad after less than 2 hours or you pass clots the size of a quarter or larger, that is heavy bleeding. If you have this type of bleeding, you should see a doctor.
Common Causes of Heavy Menstrual Flow
Diagnosing what causes heavy periods can sometimes be difficult. However, some physical conditions affecting the uterus, such as fibroids, pelvic infections and polyps, may cause heavy menstrual bleeding.
Here are 10 common causes of Menorrhagia (Heavy Menstrual Flow)
- Pelvic infections
- Some drugs
- Blood clotting problems
- Cancers of the womb or cervix
- Thyroid disease
Nearly 20% of women over 30 years have fibroids. They are of different types and may cause heavy menstrual bleeding.
Treatment of fibroids depends on many factors, so see your doctor.
2. Pelvic Infections
Infections like pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can cause heavy periods. This often comes with abnormal vaginal discharge and lower abdominal pain.
Most PIDs can be treated with medications.
3. Some Drugs
People who menstruate and are taking certain medications like Warfarin & Aspirin can have heavy menstrual bleeds.
Any drug which thins the blood or encourages bleeding and needs to be given to a menstruating woman, should be carefully weighed to check the risk-benefit ratio.
Polyps are non-cancerous growths. They may be attached to the inner wall of your womb (endometrial polyps) or your cervix (cervical polyps).
Polyps can increase period bleeding, cause bleeding in-between your periods, and bleeding after sex. Treatment is mostly surgical removal.
Women who use copper T intrauterine contraception devices IUCDs to prevent pregnancy, tend to have heavy menstrual flow.
This might be due to blood vessel changes which affect blood flow to the womb. Heavy periods may warrant a review of your contraceptive method.
Endometriosis is when tissues that usually line the inside of your womb grow outside the uterus.
This can cause shorter amount of time in-between your periods, very painful periods and heavy flows. See your doctor for full evaluation and treatment.
Adenomyosis is when tissues that usually line the inside of your womb grow within and into the wall of your uterine.
This can cause heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding, severe cramping, pain during intercourse, or blood clots that pass during a period. See a doctor.
8. Blood clotting problems
Women with blood clotting disorders can experience heavy menstrual bleeding.
For example, platelet disorders and clotting factor deficiencies can make it difficult for blood to clot properly, leading to heavy periods. Your health care providers can help if you have this issue.
9. Cancers of the womb or cervix
Uterine cancer may cause brown vaginal discharge with bleeding in-between your periods, which may be heavy.
Cervical cancer could cause irregular and heavy periods, with occasional blood-streaked vaginal discharge. Please see your doctor for early diagnosis and treatment.
10. Thyroid disease
Your thyroid gland influences the control of your menstrual cycle. Too much or too little thyroid hormone can make your period very light, heavy, irregular or even absent.
Low thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) may cause heavy periods. See your doctor for assessment & treatment.
It is always a good idea to talk with your doctor about your heavy periods, especially if the problem is new for you. It could lead to anemia (low levels of red blood cells), which can make you feel weak, tired, or out of breath.
Heavy period or menorrhagia is very common. Nearly 1 in every 5 women you see have it. People should know what causes it and how to find help.