Heavier bleeding on the first two to three days of your period is normal and does not always indicate that something is wrong. Your flow can vary from month to month and can be affected by lifestyle, diet and hormonal changes.
Menorrhagia: How Do You Know If You Have A Heavy Period?
But how heavy is too heavy for a period? This will vary from one person to another and as ever changes in your body are a reason to consult your doctor. Traditionally a cut-off point of 80 ml in each period or a duration of more than 7 days was used to define menorrhagia. Bear in mind that what you see in your menstrual cup or other sanitary products is not just blood but also includes the lining of your uterus and vaginal secretions1.
However, a menstrual flow so severe as to impact on your activities of daily living or increased use of menstrual products can also be used to define heavy periods if not menorrhagia. The NHS has developed a tool to work out if you are having a heavy period which is also relevant for menstrual cup users, as menstrual cups have a greater capacity than tampons and pads. This means that you can go about your day without having to change your period product as frequently as before. You should change your menstrual cup at least every 12 hours.
Every period is experienced differently, but your period is considered heavy if you:
- Have to change your pad or tampon every 1-2 hours for at least a day.
- Frequent flooding or leaking onto your clothes even though you’re using a menstrual product.
- Use tampons and pads together to manage your flow.
- Pass large blood clots.
- Regularly have to cancel activities because of your heavy period.
- Have to get up during the night to change bedsheets or menstrual products.
- You feel anaemic, weak or very tired.
It is easy for menstrual cup users to work out their menstrual flow. In fact, many new users may not have realised that their periods were especially heavy until they started using a cup and saw exactly how much blood was lost. The Ruby Cup Medium holds 24ml so if you fill more than 3 full cups during your period will be fulfilling the criteria of menorrhagia. Because of the larger capacity of the cups, Ruby Menstrual Cup users will not have to change their menstrual products so often. For example, the 24ml that the Ruby Cup Medium holds is equal to 3 super tampons.
When To See A Doctor About Heavy Periods.
If you realise that you have heavy periods after having read the information above, and you have never spoken to a doctor about them, then now is the time. Often people with periods don’t realise that what is a normal period for them is actually too much of a menstrual flow. You may have spent years “putting up with it” and adapting your lifestyle to your heavy periods but it is never too late to see a doctor and seek solutions.
Similarly, if there are any changes to how heavy your periods are, even if they don’t fulfil the above criteria, then you should speak to your doctor.
Why Is My Period So Heavy?
Heavy periods can have several causes, some from within the uterus and reproductive system, others will be a reflection of changes elsewhere in the body.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Cancer of the uterus (womb).
- Copper IUD
- Bleeding disorders
- Anticoagulant (anti-clotting) medication
- Some types of chemotherapy.
How To Manage Heavy Periods?
Once you have been checked over by your doctor and there is no cause for concern in your heavy period, then you can think about how to manage it. Finding the right menstrual health product that is easy to use, convenient and comfortable is key to improving your day to day life.
Why Menstrual Cups Are The Best Solution For Heavy Periods:
- A menstrual cup holds 3 times more fluid than a super tampon. Once inserted correctly you are unlikely to leak.
- With a larger capacity than tampons or pads, this means fewer bathroom visits. You can wear your period cup for up to 12 hours.
- Unlike bulky menstrual products, you won’t even notice you are using it. With a menstrual cup, you can wear your usual clothes and maintain an active lifestyle without any compromises.
- Menstrual cups are a healthy and safe period product. The premium medical-grade silicone of the Ruby Cup does not dry you out or leave cotton residue in your vagina.
- As it’s a reusable product, no emergency runs to the pharmacy are needed and you avoid up to 200 disposable products each year you use a menstrual cup.
Is There Anyway I Can Make My Heavy Periods Lighter?
Many people suffer in silence with heavy periods for all their life. There are many medical options which need to be prescribed by a doctor who can look at the pros and cons specific to your case. These include hormone-releasing IUDs (intra-uterine devices) as well as oral contraceptives which use a combination or single progesterone hormone to reduce or lighten your periods.
Other options may be short-term use of anti-bleeding medication such as tranexamic acid. It might take a few tries to find what works for you but there are solutions available for people with periods who have found their quality of life compromised by their heavy bleeding.
Date last reviewed: April 2020
Written by Dr Alice Byram Bsc Med & Surg UMA MA Hons MML Cantab
Dr Alice Byram was born in England to a French-British family. Following on from a degree in Spanish from the University of Cambridge, she went to Spain to study medicine. On her return to the UK, she worked in Emergency Medicine for several years before recently returning to Barcelona.
1Yang H, Zhou B, Prinz M, Siegel D. Proteomic analysis of menstrual blood. Mol Cell Proteomics. 2012;11(10):1024–1035. doi:10.1074/mcp.M112.018390