Heavy Menstrual Bleeding: How Do I Know Whether I Have It?

Menstrual flows can vary greatly from woman to woman. While some people typically experience very light, short periods, others can have much heavier bleeding. Because of this, what is considered “normal” will vary from person to person. But how can you determine whether your menstrual bleeding is too heavy?

While many women have periods on the heavier side, this doesn’t necessarily mean they have menorrhagia, a medical condition characterized by abnormally heavy or prolonged periods.

To guide you in deciding whether to consult with a doctor, we’ve outlined a few common signs that you could be suffering from menorrhagia.

You’re changing your tampon or pad after less than two hours.

Women lose an average of 30 to 40 milliliters of blood during each period, and those with heavy flows may lose between 60 and 80 milliliters. How can you tell if you’re losing too much? Keep track of how often you have to change your tampon or pad. If you’re changing it after less than two hours, or using more than seven a day, you might want to consider seeing a doctor.

Your period lasts for more than seven days.

If your period lasts more than a week, it may be time to schedule an OB/GYN appointment. Normal periods typically last two to seven days, no more. Mark your calendar at the beginning and end of your period, and keep consistent records so you can relay all the relevant information to your doctor.

You often feel fatigued or low-energy.

Fatigue and low energy can be signs of anemia, a common side effect of menorrhagia. Losing too much blood can make you feel depleted; you might find it difficult to stay focused at work or might not be motivated to partake in your usual social activities, hobbies, or creative pursuits. While not everyone with menorrhagia experiences anemia, these are good warning signs to look for.

You’re experiencing weight gain or constipation.

Menorrhagia can be caused by thyroid conditions, such as hypothyroidism. The thyroid controls a huge range of processes in the body, so it can affect your period in various ways. Along with heavy or prolonged periods, weight gain and constipation are common signs of thyroid problems.

You’re having memory problems.

Aside from constipation and weight gain, thyroid issues can even cause memory problems. If you’re noticing that it’s difficult for you to remember things day to day, or you are drawing a blank when asked about subjects you’re well versed in, consider scheduling appointments with both your PCP and gynecologist.

You have persistent acne or excessive facial hair.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is another common cause of menorrhagia. PCOS can result in hormonal imbalances, which means that your uterine lining may grow for months without shedding, resulting in heavy bleeding. Hard-to-treat acne and excessive facial hair are classic signs of PCOS, so keep a lookout for these as you determine whether you may be experiencing abnormally heavy periods.

You often have pelvic pressure, discomfort, or pain.

Other issues, such as cervical polyps and uterine fibroids—which can bleed—can also be to blame for very heavy menstrual flows. Pelvic exams can determine whether you’re suffering from these conditions, which cause pelvic discomfort, pressure, or pain, as well as heavy bleeding.

You have pinprick-size dots on your legs or bruise very easily.

Bleeding conditions caused by a low platelet count can make it hard for your blood to clot properly, and this, in turn, can result in excessive menstrual flows. In most cases like this, other symptoms would also be present, such as pinprick-like dots on your legs or easy bruising.

You’re bleeding between periods.

Spotting between periods can be caused by a range of conditions, including endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and even cervical cancer or ovarian cancer. (Keep in mind, however, that the likelihood of your heavy periods being caused by cancer is very low.) All of these conditions can result in heavy bleeding and should be treated or monitored by your doctor.

Learn More

If you still have questions about your heavy menstrual bleeding, or want to speak to a specialist about specific concerns, contact Pacific Women's OB/GYN Medical Group today.

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