When is a period, a heavy period?
So there you are, minding your own business at an overcrowded station when you become aware that you’re feeling damp and worry that a red stain is appearing on your new white trousers. Typically there’s no toilet in sight! 1 in 5 women in the UK know how you feel. They understand about the need to plan every outing around their period, to limit their social lives and ensure they are prepared as possible for potential leaks. Fortunately, heavy periods can do no harm, but they are incredibly frustrating!
Heavy, heavier, heaviest
Are you having to live your life around your period? Do you need to change your tampon more frequently than normal? Do you have to double up (use a tampon and sanitary pad together)? You have a recognised medical condition, menorrhagia (heavy periods)! There are a number of possible causes. Your periods may become heavier as you get older because of hormonal imbalances, which can get worse the older you get. You may be suffering from a (slight) clotting abnormality. This is relatively rare and you will always be tested for this. Another obvious reason you might experience heavy periods is a physical cause in the uterus, such as a fibroid or polyp.
Unfortunately, for about 60 per cent of women, the cause is less clear. You may simply be prone to heavy periods (why, why?!), but the risk of heavy periods also increases if you are overweight, over the age of 35 or have had children, for example.
Am I suffering from heavy periods?
So you suspect you’re periods are heavier than normal, but how do you actually know for sure? Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule to indicate whether or not you are suffering from heavy periods, but as a rough guide you are considered to have ‘heavy’ periods if:
- Your period is long (longer than 4 to 7 days);
- You lose so much blood that you need to change your sanitary pad or tampon regularly, or even ‘double up’;
- You are pretty much out of action during your period. For example, you cancel appointments and call in sick at work.
Another measure often used by doctors is how much it is affecting you physically, mentally and emotionally i.e. your physical symptoms such as tiredness or if you’re miserable and no longer have an interest in doing things you enjoy. Keeping a period diary to track your symptoms will help you see what’s happening and also will help you talk to your GP if you decide to get help. Do not think this is something you have ‘put up with’. You don’t. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has guidelines for healthcare professionals that say “Heavy menstrual bleeding (heavy periods) should be recognised as having a major impact on a woman’s quality of life, and any intervention should aim to improve this…”National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. Heavy menstrual bleeding guidelines. 2016 https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/CG44/chapter/Recommendations#pharmaceutical-treatments-for-hmb Broadly speaking, if you are unhappy and miserable, your periods are affecting your daily life, your GP should be able to help you!
There are various treatment options available that will enable you to wear your white trousers with confidence again!