Find out more about the symptoms, causes and treatment for heavy periods from Dr Ginni Mansberg from Embarrassing Bodies Down Under.
Well it's a bit scary really. The average Australian woman has between 450 and 500 periods in her lifetime. Wow, and for one in five women, at least some of the time those periods are going to be heavy. So what are heavy periods? Well random fact of the day, an average period is about 30 to 40ml of blood which is about 3 to 4 tablespoons, not that I expect you to stand there and measure it. Heavy periods on the other hand are more than 80ml of blood, that's a heap.
If you're changing your tampon every single hour and that's going on for more than a day, chances are you're losing an awful lot of blood. Same thing if you are using a tampon and a pad together or if you're leaking regularly onto your clothes or onto your sheets or if you've got a lot of clots.
We don't like blood clots in the period so that's a chance, a possibility of you having heavy periods, but to be honest with you, very few of my patients come to me and say my periods are too heavy. What happens is they come to me and say I've got lots of headaches and I feel really tired. I do a blood test, find out that they've got no iron stores left and I say to them hmm tell me about your periods, and it's what they tell me that makes me go, hey that's way too heavy, because if you're losing that much blood every single month, chances are your iron stores are completely depleted. You will feel tired, headachey, maybe have some back pain, be intolerant of exercise, feel quite breathless as you walk up the stairs.
If you don't ovulate properly, if you don't release an egg in the middle of your cycle, then the blood in the uterus just builds up and builds up and you end up with a really heavy period and that's why you tend to get very heavy periods at the beginning of your menstrual life when you've just started getting your periods, because you're not ovulating properly yet,
And again at the end of your menstrual life, just before you get to it, to menopause. So that's kind of mid to late forties that will often happen. But there are other causes as well. Particularly for young girls, we're looking at polycistic ovaries. One in five girls has it at the moment. It's really, really common and along with your acne and maybe your excessive weight gain and maybe some hair around the nipples, you will also get heavy and often painful periods particularly when you're young.
Another big cause, fibroids. They are beginning tumours in the muscle wall of the uterus. If they go near a blood vessel, they can bleed like crazy. As can polyps, again it's a condition of that perimenopause, as you're starting towards menopause. Uh polyps can be cut out. Again they're benign. Cancer though, endometrial cancer, so that's cancer of the lining of the uterus, can cause very heavy periods particularly if you haven't been ovulating for a long time. For that reason, we always, always will investigate heavy bleeding. We have to have a look inside your uterus.
One other condition that's worth talking about particularly in that Perimenopause is Adinomiosis. You might have heard of it. The difference between that and the other condition is it's very painful. It's a form of endometriosis that grows through the muscle wall of the uterus. Painful heavy periods, very hard to treat. We often need to use a Hysterectomy. For most of those problems of the Perimonpause, they'll go away as you hit menopause.
We do need to make sure it's not a nasty sinister cause, cause if it was something like Endometrial cancer, it's not common but oh boy, do we want to get on top of that and fix that for you. But then whatever it is, we can fix it. These days there are so many new treatments for Fibroids, Abnomiosis and Polyps and you don't need to put up with those heavy bleedings.
If you're younger, it's just because you haven't gone into a regular cycle yet. Give it time, it will happen. Sometimes we have to use the contraceptive pill just to make sure that your cycle's becoming regular because you can lose a lot of blood that way and if it's Polycistic ovaries, well we've got specific treatments for that as well. If you've always had nasty periods and particularly if they've been irregular, please go and see your GP.