Usually, menstrual cycle can have a bleeding lasting for an average of 5 days. The blood loss can be anywhere between 25 – 80 ml. A period lasting for more than 7 days or entailing blood loss of more than 80 ml is called heavy period (or menorrhagia). Menorrhagia can be used interchangeably with another term hypermenorrhea. However, menorrhagia can particularly indicate increased quantity of bleeding while hypermenorrhea can indicate increased duration of bleeding.
Heavy periods may not essentially be a cause of concern for every woman. Nonetheless, complications can occur; iron deficiency and unbearable pain can be the most observed ones. Anemia (or iron deficiency) may be mild but can be sufficient to cause weakness and fatigue. Heavy menstrual bleeding can also be accompanied by painful menstrual cramps which may want you to have prescription medicines for relief. Although rare, heavy periods may indicate a concerning underlying condition like the cancer of the womb.
Causes of Heavy Periods
When the endometrial lining’s blood vessels are shed, the normal coagulation process restricts blood loss and gradually stops blood flow. A coagulation disorder, or disorder of platelets, can possibly upset the usual trend and cause heavy periods. The coagulation process limits bleeding and its improper functioning can cause bleeding to continue beyond the usual. This coagulation disorder may be inherited.
Usually, a menstrual cycle is marked by a balance between two hormones – estrogen and progesterone. This balance is important in enabling the buildup of the uterine lining and its shedding during menstruation. When the balance is upset, the endometrium can become excessively thick. Ultimately, this excess endometrium sheds in the form of heavy menstrual bleeding. Hormonal imbalance can also indicate early menopause and can cause irregular or heavy periods.
During pregnancy, the lining of the uterus can build up naturally under the hormonal effects which your body experiences. An early spontaneous miscarriage may cause heavy bleeding. Besides, an ectopic pregnancy can also be the reason behind heavy period.
Excessive Build up in Endometrial Lining
There can be other reasons for an excessive build up of endometrial lining besides hormonal imbalance. Periods particularly close to the onset of menstruation (the menarche) and just before menopause may be particularly heavy for some.
Another reason behind build up of endometrial lining can be aging in women. As you age and get closer to menopause, ovulation gets delayed. The remaining ovarian follicles get resistant to a hormone (GnRH). This probably hinders progesterone production and results into build up of the uterus lining. The normal shedding of the endometrial lining is hindered. It keeps growing and can shed irregularly, and the extra thickness makes the bleeding unusually heavy.
Treatments and Medications
Sometimes, medical treatments and medications can also cause heavy periods in women. Administration of anticoagulant medicines, which reduce blood clotting, can cause heavy periods. Anti-inflammatory medications can also lead to heavy and extended menstrual bleeding.
If the hormone medicines are not used correctly, it can be another reason for heavy periods. Chemotherapy can also be one of the reasons for heavy bleeding. Menorrhagia can occur due to implementation of an intrauterine device (IUD). It can come as a side effect of this birth control technique; you may even need to remove the device if you experience excessive bleeding.
Some conditions can cause heavy periods in women. One such condition is fibroids in the wall of the uterus. Noncancerous (or benign) tumors, which can appear during childbearing years, may cause heavy or extended bleeding. There can be two reasons why fibroids can promote heavy bleeding. One points to the possibility of these large masses creating obstacle for uterus to contract appropriately. The other points to the potential ability of fibroids to change blood flow.
Adenomyosis can often cause heavy bleeding. It is not very clear how adenomyosis can cause heavy bleeding. Possibly, it is because the muscular walls of the uterus develop a weak ability to contract and hinder heavy bleeding. Hysterectomy can enable a decisive diagnosis of the condition.
Sometimes, uterine polyps can also cause heavy periods. These polyps are usually found in reproductive women and can be because of high levels of hormone in their bodies.
Women suffering from pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can experience bleeding between periods. Endometrial carcinoma, or cancer of the uterine lining, can also lead to irregular bleeding. Other causes of heavy periods include cervical cancer and ovarian cancer. Apart from these, an infection or irritation of the endometrium may also cause increased blood flow appearing as heavy periods.
There are different ways to deal with heavy periods depending on the cause. Consult your health care provider and explore all options before arriving at the optimum treatment. Adopt a positive outlook and deal with the condition without letting it overwhelm your life.