We can all have periods that are lighter or heavier than "normal" for us from time to time, but to see if we really have a heavy period we need to know how do we compare with other women.
What Do We Mean By Heavy?
The correct medical term for a heavy period is Menorrhagia. Doctors define a heavy period as losing around 80 millilitres of blood during each period. A ‘normal' period is considered to be a blood loss of around 30-40 millilitres. So short of using a menstrual cup to collect your period for one cycle, instead of tampons or pads, and then measuring it, how do you gauge your blood loss?
Assessing the Amount
First of all, count the number of products, both tampons and pads you use during your period. 1 normally soaked ‘regular' product is approximately 5ml of blood, with a ‘super' or maxi size being about twice that. Then look at how frequently you have to change your tampon or pad. If you have to change every hour or need to use both a tampon and a pad at the same time or suffer from "flooding" for more than a few hours you probably have heavy periods.
Another sign is seeing heavy clots when you go to the bathroom, or having periods that go on for more than a week. Feeling tired and lethargic can also be a sign as it is a symptom of anemia, which can be due to excessive blood loss.
If you think that you do have heavy periods, what should you do?
Going To The Doctor
It's a good idea to keep records for a couple of cycles of exactly how many products you have to use, how many days you have to have off work or school etc so that the doctor can see what you are talking about and find out the cause.
It could be age-related, a hormone imbalance, using an IUD (inter-uterine contraceptive device), a side effect of other medication you may be taking, fibroids, or it could be a sign of a serious illness.
The doctor will probably take a blood test to check your hormone and iron levels, as one of the problems with the excessive loss of blood is lack of iron. If you are anemic, the doctor will prescribe iron tablets. The doctor will also probably give you a pelvic examination and/or an ultra-sound scan to check what is going on inside, so make sure you schedule enough time for the appointment.
As well as taking your records with you, write a list of questions you want to ask the doctor, so that you don't forget anything vital, and why not write down the answers too, so that you can look over it later at your leisure, and if necessary get a second opinion.
There is no need to suffer with heavy periods, as there are lots of treatments available. We just need to go to the doctor to get the help we need.
Get advice from other women about heavy periods in our menstruation forum.