When is a period too long?
It sounds like the start of a joke, but for 1 in 5 women, their periods are no laughing matter. Some women have always had long or heavy periods, while others are suddenly confronted with them after stopping the pill, childbirth or during the menopause. No matter why and when it happens, prolonged periods are not funny!
No two women have the same periods, but there are some average ranges that are considered normal i.e. a menstrual cycle lasting between 21 to 35 days for adult women and a period lasting 2-7 days. You will have your own ‘normal’. This can change over time. If you think your periods are changing, you can monitor them using a period diary.
20 per cent of UK women experience heavy periods, i.e. periods that are excessively heavy and prolonged, with bleeding between periods and/or with lumps or clots. And yes, it is just as unpleasant as it sounds. Heavy periods are a recognised medical condition called menorrhagia, not a life threatening condition, but one which can have a huge impact on a person’s life. Prolonged periods are one of various symptoms that can indicate menorrhagia. This condition can start at an early age or appear after stopping the pill or around menopause. However, for most women (about 60 per cent), no clear cause can be identified.
Prolonged periods after stopping contraception
Stopping hormonal contraceptives such as the Pill can cause sudden and dramatic changes to your periods. When you stop the Pill, it take times for your body to adapt to its natural hormonal balance again. Stopping the Pill also can have various side effects such as sensitive breasts or increased libido, but also heavy and longer periods.
Prolonged periods and the menopause
Your periods can also suddenly alter around the time of your menopause. The menopause affects some women far less than others, but most of us are familiar with terms like ‘hot flushes’, ‘night sweats’, and ‘changing periods’. Fluctuating hormone levels can also cause various menstrual complaints including a long menstrual cycle.
The effects of prolonged periods
Apart from the fact that having long periods is unpleasant enough in itself, a prolonged menstrual cycle can have other effects such as iron deficiency (anaemia), fatigue and period pain.
Put an end to your long periods
If you’re having to organise your life around your periods, it’s time to do something about it. Make an appointment with your GP to discuss your symptoms and potential treatments. To get the most out of your appointment take a look at our Talking to your GP page.