How do I know if my period is heavy?
It can be hard to determine if someone is experiencing heavy periods, as everyone’s cycle is different and blood flows can vary. It can also be hard to know whether anything is wrong if you’ve always had a heavy period with clots. However, there are some signs to look out for..
You period might be heavy if you:
- Change your period protection every two hours or more
- Pass blood clots larger than 2.5 cm (size of a 10p)
- Bleed through your clothes
- Need to double-up on period protection
The NHS has a heavy period self-assessment quiz that you can take to get a better idea of whether or not you’re experiencing a heavy period flow.
What causes heavy periods?
Asking yourself ‘why is my period so heavy?’ You’re not alone. And often there isn’t a reason behind why someone will have heavy period bleeding.
However, if your doctor has concerns they may examine you for conditions such as:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- In rare cases it can be a sign of womb cancer
Sometimes, your period can become more heavy than usual due to other reasons- such as post pregnancy, during the menopause or if you’ve just started your periods. In each case, your flow should settle down again within a couple of months.
How are heavy periods diagnosed?
Heavy period with clots are common- according to Women’s Health Concern, around 1 in 3 women report that they suffer with heavy bleeding during their cycle, with 1 in 20 seeking advice from their GP because of it.
Mr Narendra Pisal, consultant gynaecologist at London Gynaecology told us,
“Periods can vary considerably in different women. However, many women with extremely heavy periods still believe their periods to be normal as they have nothing else to compare with. Bleeding during an average period is supposed to be around 80ml (less than half a cup), but a lot of women do have more bleeding than this.
You can call your periods heavy if you are passing lots of clots or having to constantly use double protection, changing protection more frequently than every four hours or if your periods are making you anaemic. It is a subjective thing.
Heavy periods can be an indicator of underlying problems such as fibroids, endometriosis or thyroid dysfunction, and it is always a good idea to get things checked out with your GP or Gynaecologist.
If the bleeding is heavy as described above or making you tired, exhausted and anaemic, you should see a doctor. He / She is likely to arrange an ultrasound scan and will arrange blood tests to check your haemoglobin, thyroid function tests and iron levels. If heavy periods are also associated with bleeding between periods or after sex, you should definitely see a doctor.”
Your doctor may also ask you a series of questions about the length of your period, how often you change your period protection, if you are experiencing stomach cramps, and if you have spotting between periods.
They may wish to examine your tummy to see if your ovaries are enlarged or feel tender and look at your cervix to help them find out the reasons behind the heavy period bleeding. If the thought of having a physical exam is scary then take steps to make yourself feel comfortable such as taking a friend with you or asking for a female doctor.
Medical treatments for heavy periods
We asked Mr Pisal about the medical treatments available for heavy periods with clots, and he told us that there are several options to choose from.
“The advice would always be to your doctor to discuss any symptoms you are concerned about. Prescription medications such as Tranexamic Acid (reduces the amount of bleeding) and Mefenamic Acid (great for relieving spasms) are very effective.
Taking the combined contraceptive pill usually has a positive effect on the menstrual cycle, often making periods lighter and less painful. Hence, the pill is often used as a therapeutic intervention for conditions such as endometriosis, heavy or painful periods. Occasionally it can lead to break-through-bleeding between periods.
Hormonal IUDs (Mirena or Jaydess) secrete a small amount of progesterone within the uterine cavity and will often lead to lighter and less painful periods. Sometimes the periods are completely blocked. Irregular bleeding in the first few months is also a common side effect.
The Injection Pill, Implant and minipill all contain progesterone and often lead to absence of periods. Irregular unpredictable bleeding is a known side-effect.
If these simple measures are not helpful, it is best to see a gynaecologist for an assessment and a pelvic ultrasound scan.”
There are other procedures, including surgery, available for women with heavy period bleeding where the above has not been effective for them.
Herbal remedies for heavy periods
Herbal treatments are an option that some women use to reduce their heavy period flow; herbal remedies also have fewer complications for the immune system. It’s important to note, however, that all herbal remedies should be taken under the guidance of an herbalist or doctor to ensure they’re taken correctly and won’t interfere with any other medications you may be taking. More research is needed into herbal medications and how they can help women with heavy periods. Please bear this in mind when deciding upon which treatment option to follow and always seek medical advice.
Studies have shown that ginger can be effective in reducing heavy periods. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that inhibit prostaglandin production, which can reduce cramping and inflammation related to heavy periods. Ginger can be consumed in a simple tea- boil a slice of ginger in a pan of water for 5-7 minutes, strain, and then add honey or sugar to drink- or grated into a soup or a stir-fry. You can also take ginger capsules if you prefer.
Chaste Tree- Chasteberry (Vitex Agnus- castus)
Vitex Agnus is a berry-bearing shrub grown in hot countries, used to balance hormones and treat abnormal bleeding. Lara Briden, author of Hormone Repair Manual and Period Repair Manual is a naturopathic doctor and women’s health activist. In this article she talks about the do’s and don’t’s of taking Vitex Agnus for heavy periods. She also advises that the herb works by lowering prolactin levels in the body, helping to balance out menstruation irregularities. Her advice is backed up by this 2013 study which found that Vitex Agnus was effective enough to reduce bleeding in 47.6% of those taking part- although it does conclude that more research is needed.
Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella Bursa- Pastoris)
Shepherd’s Purse is a plant that grows all over the world and can be used to reduce heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding and cramps.
Taking Shepherd’s Purse may cause uterine smooth muscle contractions- which indicates that this is one way of reducing menstrual bleeding, as the contractions serve to constrict blood vessels.
This 2018 study concluded that Shepherd’s Purse was “effective in reducing menstrual bleeding.”- but also that more research is needed in order to study its effects thoroughly.
Shepherd’s Purse can be used in a tincture form by adding drops to a glass of water or in a tea. It is advised to start with a lower dose and build up to a larger dose if needed, taken at certain points within your cycle. You can buy Shepherd’s Purse online or in some natural food shops.
The bottom line on heavy periods
Heavy periods are common and are not usually anything to worry about, however they can be annoying and interfere with daily life.
It’s a good idea to speak to your doctor if you're concerned about your heavy bleeding to rule out any underlying causes and to explore potential treatment options.
There are a also range of herbal treatments that can be tried to help reduce heavy bleeding. If you prefer to use herbal remedies then it’s important to seek the advice of a doctor or qualified herbalist first to make sure it is safe to do so.
If you need to double up on period protection regularly, you should try our Heavy or Super Heavy flow period pants. Designed to hold up to 12 tampons worth of period blood, they’re prefect for heavy period bleeding. Use WUKA Overnight period pants - even when you have a heavy flow to stay protected and secure all night long.
Are heavy periods normal?
What does it mean if my period is heavy?
In most cases, having a heavy flow can be completely normal for you. If you're concerned and you're regularly bleeding through to your clothing and doubling up on period protection, make an appointment to see your doctor.
Can heavy periods cause anaemia?
Heavy bleeding can lead to a reduction in red blood cells circulating, which can lead to the body tapping in to iron stores. If you're experiencing heavy bleeding and you have noticed pale skin, weakness and fatigue, make an appointment to see you doctor.
Is it normal to have heavy periods after COVID?
Some women have reported a heavier flow than usual following a covid infection or vaccination. This should settle down again within a couple of months, but speak to your doctor if it persists.