When Is a Heavy Period Considered Abnormal?

dreamstime_s_44286532Sometimes a period can be heavier than it normally is, but then it returns to what you expect the following month. This experience of a heavy period can happen from time to time, but what if your period is always heavy? Is a heavy period “normal”? And at what point should a woman with a heavy period visit her provider to discuss her symptoms?

These are all excellent questions, but many women are reluctant to speak with their provider because they simply feel a heavy period isn’t an issue and that they should not complain. This is an unfortunate misconception, since so many women choose to deal with an abnormally heavy period themselves as opposed to seeking care from their physician.

It is common for women to feel that periods are supposed to be suffered through. Some women may not understand that they are putting their quality of life and even possibly their life at risk. In these cases, women can be slightly to severely anemic, need iron or blood transfusions, need emergency procedures like a D&C or rarely, an emergency hysterectomy.

So why are some periods so much heavier than others?

Women with abnormally heavy periods may have a condition called abnormal uterine bleeding. Sometimes the condition is merely due to changes in a woman’s hormone levels and is not a medical condition. Stress and changes in your lifestyle (diet, exercise, daily routine, etc.) can contribute to changes in your period.

Even if you do not believe an underlying medical condition is present, it’s still important to contact your provider in order to rule out any issues and discuss ways you can relieve an abnormal period on your own. Regardless of the reason for your heavy period, it does not have to be an issue you are forced to live with – there are options available.

What are the medical reasons for abnormal uterine bleeding?

Abnormal uterine bleeding can be due to a few different medical conditions, some of which include fibroids, blood clotting issues, miscarriage or cancer. Your provider will assess your symptoms and determine if there is a need to screen for any of these conditions. Treatment options will be presented once an accurate diagnosis is made.

How do I know if my period is abnormal?

One of the most common questions asked of urogynocologists is: is my period normal? A period can vary from woman to woman, but you may have abnormal uterine bleeding if you present the following symptoms:

  • Do you get a period less than every 21 days or more than every 35 days?
  • Does your period last for more than 7 days?
  • Does your period affect your daily routine, i.e., do you miss school or work because of your period?
  • Is your bleeding so heavy you are passing blood clots?
  • Is your bleeding so heavy you have to change pads/tampons every hour or so?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above questions, we encourage you to contact Dr. Heidi Wittenberg of Urogynecology Center of San Francisco in order to discuss your period symptoms.