Common ailments

Menorrhagia

I am 26 years old and regularly suffer with very heavy bleeding during my menstrual periods. Is there anything I can do about this or is it something I just have to put up with?

The medical term for excessive menstrual bleeding is menorrhagia and it is quite a common problem. It is unlikely at your age that this is a sign that there is anything seriously wrong, but it can affect you physically, emotionally and socially, and disrupt everyday life.

The amount of blood lost during a period varies considerably between women but the average amount of blood loss is 30-40ml, with most women losing less than 80ml. Therefore anything more than 80ml of blood loss is considered to amount to excessive menstrual bleeding, or a heavy period.

It is tricky to measure exact blood loss so a good indication that it is excessive loss is if you feel you are using an unusually high number of tampons or sanitary towels, or frequently bleed through to your clothes or bedding.

There is often no underlying cause for heavy periods, but some conditions and treatments have been linked to menorrhagia. These include polycystic ovary syndrome, fibroids and some contraceptive devices, such as the copper coil.

If you find that your heavy periods are disrupting your day to day life, then I would recommend speaking to your GP. They may recommend an internal (vaginal) examination if they suspect an underlying cause for the heavy bleeding. Your GP will probably also want to carry out a blood test. This is to check for anaemia, a condition where a lack of iron in the body leads to a reduction in the number of red blood cells (which help store and carry oxygen in the blood).

If a diagnosis of excessive bleeding is made then your GP may prescribe medication or recommend treatment in the form of a hormone based coil to reduce the bleeding.

In the meantime, it may be worth keeping a diary for a few periods to record the number of tampons or sanitary towels you need each day, and the number of days you bleed. This will also help your GP to assess how bad your symptoms are and whether treatment is needed. It is also a good idea to make sure that the food you are eating contains a lot of iron so your body can replace the blood you are losing.

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