Do you wonder sometimes if maybe your period is heavier than it should be?
I’ve been talking with women about their periods for 20 years now and I’ve found there are two massive misconceptions –
1: the idea that period pain is normal
2: the idea that if your period is really heavy you just need to keep searching for the maxiest maxi pad or the most ‘ultra’ ultra tampon. You need to set your alarm at night to get up and change your pad before you’re bleeding onto your mattress again and watch the clock to replace your tampon hourly during the day.
This is not ok!
It’s easy to assume your period is ‘normal’ and that other women are coping with pain or crazy heavy flow too. In fact there ARE lots of ladies suffering similarly - that doesn’t make it normal, it just makes it common.
So lets get real about menstrual flow..
How much should I bleed?
The amount of bleeding will vary from one woman to another, a healthy flow can last between 3-7 days, the total amount of blood loss should be between 25-80 ml from start to end, an average is 35-50ml. Women who lose more than 80 ml per period will tend to become anaemic, causing many symptoms- fatigue and lightheadedness are the most common.
You might be wondering ... how do I know if I lose 25ml or 80ml?? At your next flow pay attention to the tampon you use - very light holds 1ml and supers can hold 8-10 ml, you can calculate your flow from your tampon use. If you are using a menstrual cup (which I swear by!) 25ml is the average a menstrual cup holds, so the most you should fill a cup is 4 times, this may mean adding up ½’s and ¼’s over the complete flow. Another way to judge if your flow is too heavy is if you saturate a super tampon or thick pad more often than every hour, for more than six to eight hours.
What should my flow look like?
Your flow may be brown for the first few hours, then quickly change to a cranberry red colour, the flow should run freely with a consistency similar to that of olive oil – thicker than water but not gluggy. You shouldn’t see large clots in your flow, small thread like clots are normal but anything more than that tends to suggest a hormone imbalance. When I chat with women in consultation about their menstrual flow, some describe large clots, bigger than a fifty cent piece. Many of these ladies don’t realise that clots this large may suggest something is going wrong with their cycles, something that can often be managed and improved with expert advice within a few months.
Why am I bleeding so much?
If you are regularly bleeding more heavily than 80 ml per cycle, don’t panic. It could be a hormonal imbalance or an iron deficiency that is contributing to the heavier than normal loss. You may also want to check for fibroids, endometriosis, uterine polyps or adenomyosis. An ultrasound can give your practitioner a good understanding of the health of your reproductive organs, an important point to remember is that an ultrasound alone can’t exclude the possibility of endometriosis, which is a common, frequently undiagnosed cause of excessive bleeding.
I would also always suggest checking iron levels as iron deficiency can cause a vicious cycle of heavy periods, causing iron deficiency, causing worsened heavy periods…
In essence, the purpose of this article was to bring understanding to more women that its not necessary just to put up with heavy periods, there will be a reason, a reason that can be resolved with the correct treatment and support.
A Naturopath with expertise in women’s health will be able to support you with the correct remedies, dietary modifications and life-style changes to help you regain a manageable flow. I’m so fortunate to work with women with symptoms like those above and listen to the change in the way they describe each period. It’s such a relief for them to have a period without that dreadful fear of flooding at the most inopportune moment, a period that doesn’t cause severe fatigue and dizziness or a second mortgage after a trip down the feminine hygiene aisle.
Are your periods super heavy?