Periods can be a real pain. Those menstrual cramps, headaches, and muscle aches that come with your period can really make life difficult. To make matters worse, some women have to deal with heavy menstrual bleeding during their periods. Everyone has a heavy period now and again, but if you are bleeding excessively every month you may be suffering from menorrhagia. Menorrhagia can increase your period discomfort and may signal underlying reproductive complications.
What is Menorrhagia?
Menorrhagia is one of the most common forms of irregular periods. It causes you to experience heavy and prolonged bleeding every month, along with a variety of other symptoms. Women with menorrhagia lose more than the typical 60mL of blood during menstruation. It may require you to frequently change your tampon or pad, and can affect your daily routine. If left untreated, menorrhagia can result in a number of complications.
Who Gets Menorrhagia?
Any woman of childbearing age can develop menorrhagia. However, some women are more likely to experience heavy menstrual bleeding than others. Risk factors include:
- being a young adolescent or pre-menopausal woman
- being overweight
- using certain medications, such as blood thinners
- having a hereditary bleeding disorder
What Causes Menorrhagia?
Menorrhagia can be the result of a number of different causes. In order to determine what may be causing your heavy periods, it is important that you have a physical exam performed by your health care provider.
The two most common causes of menorrhagia are hormone imbalance and uterine fibroids:
Other common causes of menorrhagia include:
- an improperly fitted IUD
- ovarian cysts
- certain reproductive cancers, like uterine and ovarian cancer
The main symptom of menorrhagia is excessive menstrual bleeding. Women with the disorder also tend to bleed more than once a month. You may have menorrhagia if you:
- have to change your pad or tampon every hour
- have to change your pad or tampon overnight
- bleed in between periods
- experience prolonged menstrual bleeding
- have short or irregular menstrual cycles
- experience continuous cramping during your period
Complications Associated with Menorrhagia
If left untreated, there is a possibility that you could experience a menorrhagia-related health complication. Some possible complications of heavy menstrual bleeding include:
- Anemia: Many women with menorrhagia experience iron-deficiency anemia. Your blood contains red blood cells, which carry oxygen and nutrients around the body. If you experience heavy monthly blood loss, you may not have enough red blood cells to keep your body energized. Anemia can cause extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, fainting, and heart complications.
- Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS): TSS is an infection that can occur when you wear a tampon for longer than 8 hours. Because women with menorrhagia wear tampons more frequently than other women, their risk for TSS increases. TSS symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and sore throat.
- Infertility: It is possible that your menorrhagia could also affect your fertility. Menorrhagia may indicate that you are suffering from reproductive complications like endometriosis, uterine abnormalities, or ovarian dysfunction.
Treatment for Menorrhagia
It is important to receive menorrhagia treatment, to prevent any possible complications. Both non-surgical and surgical options are available.
Non-surgical options are usually the first line of defense against heavy menstrual bleeding.
- Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen help to reduce cramping and excessive bleeding.
- Progesterone: The hormone progesterone is often given to women suffering from prolonged heavy bleeding. Progesterone can help to normalize the menstrual cycle.
- Hormonal Birth Control: Hormonal birth control, like the birth control pill, can help to regulate your menstrual cycle and make your periods lighter.
If your menorrhagia is severe, your health care provider may suggest that you pursue surgical options.
- Endometrial Ablation: Endometrial ablation involves using intense ultrasound waves to kill the endometrial lining. This will stop heavy bleeding, but it will interfere with pregnancy.
- Hysterectomy: A hysterectomy is a major surgical procedure in which your uterus is removed. It is offered only in severe cases in which fertility is not a concern.
Chat with others about period problems like menorrhagia in our menstruation forum.