When Is Heavy Menstrual Bleeding Cause for Concern?

One in three women seek expert gynecological care for heavy periods. Heavy menstrual bleeding may be common, but it’s never normal. Learn more about heavy periods and when they’re cause for concern.

If your monthly period usually lasts longer than a week, or if your menstrual flow requires you to change your pad or tampon nearly every hour through the duration of most of your period, you may be experiencing heavy uterine bleeding

 Formerly known as menorrhagia, abnormally heavy periods aren’t just a nuisance — they can trigger anxiety, make you miss work, and sap your energy. And heavy menstrual bleeding that interferes with your daily life is never normal. 

At New Beginnings OB/GYN in Shenandoah, Texas, Dr. Christina Parmar and Dr. Rania Ibrahim can get to the bottom of abnormal menstrual bleeding and provide treatment solutions to help you get the relief you need. Here’s when your heavy period may be cause for concern.   

Abnormal uterine bleeding explained

A normal menstrual cycle lasts anywhere from 24-38 days. When your uterus sheds its lining during this reproductive cycle, you experience a normal “period” of bleeding. Normal uterine bleeding, including light and heavy flows, typically lasts one week or less. 

Uterine bleeding that doesn’t fit the normal definition or occurs outside of your regular period is considered abnormal. This includes:

  • Spotting between periods; bleeding after intercourse
  • Having irregular periods of significantly varied duration 
  • A short menstrual cycle with two periods per month
  • An extra-long cycle with less than one monthly period
  • Monthly periods that trigger disruptive menstrual pain
  • Any uterine bleeding that happens after menopause  

 One of the most common forms of abnormal uterine bleeding is having heavy menstrual periods. Experts estimate that anywhere between one in four (27%) and one in two (54%) women who menstruate experience heavy periods. 

When your periods are unusually heavy  

Given that a heavy flow can occur during an otherwise normal period, it’s important to understand what constitutes abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding. 

 Technically, heavy periods are defined as menstrual bleeding that saturates a pad or tampon every hour for several hours in a row and any period that lasts longer than seven days. Other signs of a heavy period include: 

  • Needing to change your pad or tampon during the night
  • Menstrual flow with blood clots the size of a quarter or larger
  • Needing to wear two pads (or a pad and a tampon together) 

When you have a very heavy flow, you may not feel comfortable leaving the house without packing a bag of extra period products and fresh clothes. Heavy menstruation may cause you to miss work and avoid activities you’d otherwise like to partake in.  

Potential causes of heavy menstruation 

It’s common for women to experience abnormal periods at certain times in their lives. For example, periods are more likely to be irregular or heavy when they first begin in adolescence, and they may also become irregular and sometimes heavier than normal during the transition to menopause. 

When heavy menstrual bleeding consistently happens at any other time in life, it may be the product of a gynecological problem, a medical condition, or even stress. Heavy menstruation can occur with: 

Hormonal imbalances

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disease, anovulation, and being overweight can all cause hormonal imbalances that prompt irregular ovulation and heavy periods.  

Noncancerous growths

Endometrial, uterine, and cervical polyps can cause spotting, heavy periods, or other types of abnormal uterine bleeding, as can adenomyosis and uterine fibroids. The endometrial implants caused by endometriosis are another common cause of heavy periods.  

Certain medications

Taking blood thinners and aspirin can cause heavy periods, as can certain kinds of birth control medication. For example, the copper intrauterine device (IUD) is associated with heavy periods during the first year of use. 

Bleeding disorders

As many as one in 10 women with heavy periods have them because of a bleeding disorder, like von Willebrand disease (VWD), that interferes with the normal blood clotting process.  

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Gonorrhea, chlamydia, vaginitis, trichomoniasis, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can cause heavy uterine bleeding. 

Cancer and precancerous growths

Heavy menstruation may be a sign of cervical, uterine, ovarian, or vaginal cancer; it may also be a symptom of precancerous conditions, such as endometrial hyperplasia.  

You don’t have to live with heavy periods

Heavy menstrual bleeding isn’t normal. Even if it doesn’t always indicate something is seriously wrong, it can also be a sign of a health problem requiring care. No matter its cause, we can treat the problem effectively and help you restore a better quality of life. 

If you have heavy periods, we can help. Call or click online to schedule a visit with our women’s wellness team at New Beginnings OB/GYN in Shenandoah, Texas, today.