A River Of Blood
Heavy Periods Are Not Uncommon
Most women experience a very heavy period at some point in their reproductive life. Occasional heavy periods are common and accepted as being a normally occurring event during the menstrual cycle. Sometimes, heavy periods happen more than occasionally and they are excessive, happening for a long time. This condition is menorrhagia, which means heavy menstrual bleeding. When the condition continues for an extended time and is very heavy, then the condition is called hypermenorrhea.
What's Normal, And What's Not?
The normal menstrual cycle, while not the same for every woman, lasts only four to five days and occurs every 21 to 35 days. The total amount of blood loss is between 30 to 40 milliliters, which amounts to about two or three tablespoons. The parameters of normalcy of periods extend to regular or irregular, light or heavy, painful or pain-free, or long or short-they are all considered "normal." Menorrhagia refers to losing 80 milliliters or more of blood during a menstrual cycle. Women who are perimenopausal often experience heavy periods, but they are not usually severe enough to be considered menorrhagia.
Signs Along The Way
There are signs and symptoms associated with menorrhagia that include the need to change sanitary napkins repeatedly-including through the night and every hour for several hours during the day. The need to use two sanitary napkins at a time is also a clear indication that blood flow is excessive. If the menstrual flow continues longer than seven days, if the flow contains blood clots or it interferes with normal daily activities, see your physician. Constant abdominal pain, tiredness, fatigue or other symptoms of anemia are also cause to call the doctor.
What Causes Menorrhagia?
Sometimes the cause of heavy menstrual bleeding is unknown. However, there are some common causes of menorrhagia. Hormonal imbalance can be a Catch 22 for some women. Most often present in young girls and menopausal women, heavy menstrual bleeding happens because of too much tissue present in the uterus due to overproduction of tissue by estrogen and progesterone hormones. Medications can often control a hormonal imbalance caused by something like thyroid disease. Conversely, if hormone medications are improperly used, they too can cause menorrhagia.
Uterine fibroids, noncancerous tumors in the uterus that appear during childbearing years, can cause menorrhagia. Uterine polyps, which occur because of high hormone levels, can also cause heavy bleeding. Anovulation (the lack of ovulation) affects the balance of hormones as well. IUDs, pregnancy complications and adenomyosis-the condition that occurs when glands from the endometrium become embedded in the uterine muscle- all cause excessive bleeding.
There are a number of other causes of excessive bleeding during menses, including medications, cancer and pelvic inflammatory disease, thyroid problems, endometriosis and liver or kidney disease. If menorrhagia has occurred, it is imperative that professional medical help be obtained immediately. As with any irregularity, menorrhagia can be potentially very dangerous to a woman.